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Web user with dementia

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 07:11:50 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: W3C Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

         I shared some observations from my visit to see my Mom this 
weekend with Jonathan and he suggested I share them with all.

         First of all, dementia is a degenerative disease that diminishes 
cognitive abilities over a decade or more at the end of a healthy life. 
Dementia is the "garden variety" of the disorder; Alzheimers is one type of 
Dementia. My Mom was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, and we 
placed her in a home for her own safety and our peace of mind. This weekend 
I flew out to visit, and Mom had dinner at my sister's house one evening 
which provided the opportunity to share the World Wide Web with her. She 
was amused to see the pictures of herself, Daddy, her and Daddy's parents, 
and so forth. She vaguely understood that I put the pictures on the 
computer in Virginia and she was seeing them in Wisconsin, but perhaps does 
not quite understand the Internet, although she once did (newer stuff is 
lost before the old stuff in dementia as in Alzheimers.) Then, in one of 
those moment of inspiration I decided to see how she liked a new page I'd 
put together with music from our growing up years. Even tho I increased the 
text size to the largest, she was unable to focus on the words to read the 
page, but as I clicked on each link of old polka music and repeated the 
stories she couldn't read on the page, she became more and more involved 
.... started by tapping her knee in time, then joined me in singing some of 
the old stuff .... Mom's interaction with the music was such a departure 
from her usual demeanor these days, and she thoroughly enjoyed the page.

         When I made the music page, I considered it a frivolous bit of 
work to occupy my last days of vacation. I had no idea that the page would 
have such an impact!

         If I had made the page conservatively, I would have left off the 
sound files and just written the stories. Mom would have gotten nothing out 
of the page. It was the presence of the "multi-media" on the page that gave 
Mom the chance to interact with both the present and the past at the same 
time - that bought Mom a few minutes of genuine cognition ...

         For those who find it difficult to imagine the needs of someone 
born with cognitive disabilities, it may be helpful to consider the large 
numbers of our aging population who experience loss of cognition.


Anne Pemberton

Received on Wednesday, 5 September 2001 07:15:23 UTC

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