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RE: A PROPOSAL TO SPLIT THE WCAG IN THREE. Please read this. I'm serious.

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 13:40:36 -0700
To: "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
I think that it *is* possible, to some degree, for non-cognitively-disabled
people to appreciate some of the frustrations faced by people with cognitive
disabilities. Here is how I do it:

Well, most recently I read a post to this list by Al Gilman. As I read it, I
thought about the fact that I have been trying to understand these issues
for four or five years now. I also noted that Al sees these issues so much
more clearly than I do. This frustrated me so severely that I honestly was
ready to quit the group and just hand the guidelines to Al: Here, Al, you've
got a handle on it. I'll just be in your way. (Simultaneously I wanted to
jump up and clap my hands in delight at his apparent magic trick.)

All of us have experienced this sort of frustration in our lives. Multiply
by an order of magnitude or two, and we have some idea of the frustrations
faced by someone who is cognitively disabled (I think). Does this mean that
I understand what it is like to BE cognitively disabled? Hell, I can't even
imagine what it is like to be Kynn, or Al, or Anne, let alone what it is
like to be cognitively disabled.

But the same is true of wearing a blindfold. After banging shin for third
time, I might begin to understand a small part of the frustration of being
blind. But can I really appreciate what it is "like" to be blind? I think

One added note to consider: Al brought up a really interesting point about
blindness vs. non-blindness, i.e., that partial vision was closer to full
vision than to blindness. I think of this in C terms: 0 is false, anything
other than 0 is true.

With cognitive disabilities, is there a 0?

Another point is that with blindness, there is an alternate route to our
goal of getting information into the brain. With some (not all) cognitive
disabilities, the information gets there just fine, it is the brain that is
not up to processing it. The idea of a cognitive 0 reinforces this thought.
How would you make a site comprehensible to someone who is unable to
comprehend anything?

So there is a qualitative difference here. That is why I prefer the
terminology of removing obstacles to the idea of "equality." There is no
such thing as equal comprehension. I'm not sure that differences in
comprehension between two individuals can even be compared. I can guess that
Einstein comprehended relativity better than I do, but do two people who
appear to have the same understanding really *have* the same understanding?
How can we ever know?

I want all people, without regard to cognitive ability, to be able to
comprehend the world to the fullest extent of their individual ability to do

"Device independence" doesn't really cover what I mean by "access," I guess.
I mean getting the information IN to the brain. Comprehension is about
processing it once it is in. These two processes are entirely different in
nature. Maybe part of our problem is that we are commingling the two. Is
this what I am trying to separate with my split-guidelines approach?

Matt May was saying something about this to me the other night (but we were
both a little buzzed, so maybe I wasn't comprehending him properly). Where
are you Matt?

Chas. Munat

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kynn Bartlett [mailto:kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com]
> Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 8:39 AM
> To: Charles F. Munat; WAI Guidelines WG
> Subject: RE: A PROPOSAL TO SPLIT THE WCAG IN THREE. Please read this.
> I'm serious.
> At 5:30 AM -0700 2001/8/20, Charles F. Munat wrote:
> >Also, I'd like to see a lot more focus on comprehension. And I
> >have some questions, such as, How do we measure success?
> Part of the danger here is that we are going to always be behind on the
> comprehension checkpoints for a variety of reasons:
> (1) We've been working on access for blind people for years now; in fact,
>      our checkpoints relating to access by people who can't see are pretty
>      much unchanged since prior to the WAI's creation, modulo
> some refinement
>      and changes in technological specs (such as HTML 4.01).  On the
>      other hand, the comprehension issue has only recently been addressed;
>      there is not the huge amount of content and research available within
>      the body of knowledge considered "web accessibility".
> (2) As the audiences who could benefit the most from accessibility
>      techniques to make text most accessible would -- by definition --
>      have difficulty in participating in a mailing list of this sort,
>      we have no "self-advocacy" the way that someone such as Gregory
>      Rosmaita can directly articulate his own needs as a person who
>      is unable to see.  This makes us dependent on "advocates" in way
>      that we not been before.
> (3) It is harder for most people -- especially those of us in this group
>      who tend to be overwhelmingly brilliant (as well as passionate) --
>      to visualize cognitive disabilities.  Close your eyes, cover your
>      ears, don't move your hands, and you can approximate -- and thus
>      personalize -- the challenges faced by specific disability
>      groups.  (This technique, while limited, is still highly useful
>      as I've found in my online class.)  You can't do that with
>      cognitive disabilities; it's hard to imagine "not reading well" or
>      "not understanding".  Thus we can't rely on our own intuition.
> So what's my point?
> It may be unreasonable for us to expect that in WCAG 2.0, we address
> issues of access for all disability groups equally well.  It may not be
> a good expectation that we'll have as comprehensive a set of techniques
> to make content more understandable as we to do make content available
> to people who cannot see.  We may have to say "this is the first
> version which strongly addresses these needs, and future releases may
> do better."
> --Kynn
> --
> Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
> Technical Developer Liaison
> Reef North America
> Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
> Tel +1 949-567-7006
> ________________________________________
> ________________________________________
> http://www.reef.com
Received on Monday, 20 August 2001 16:51:54 UTC

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