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Re: More useful information for 3.3

From: Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo <emmanuelle@teleline.es>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 17:47:12 +0100
Message-ID: <00df01c1caae$ba3a7cc0$2f0e04d5@teleline.es>
To: "Jo Miller" <jm@bendingline.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
I agree with Jo in that we should discuss what guidelines they are
applicable to any document and, therefore, they can be integrated in the
WCAG.

A common practice, in the publications that assist to the necessities of
people with psychic deficiencies, is the one that can it turns in the
document in format pdf:
http://www.disabilityeuropeancongress.org/english/publications/imagen-public
ations/boletin2.pdf

But in the Web site of the European Congress on People with Disabilities is
limited to connect with the symbol "easy to read" a page with alternative
content that is presented in format .doc and that it lacks illustrations,
contradicting the European Guidelines for the Production of Easy-to-Read
Information."

Regards,
Emmanuelle

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jo Miller" <jm@bendingline.com>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 1:53 PM
Subject: More useful information for 3.3


Thank you Graham. This paper is a good resource. Reading it has also
crystallized my thinking somewhat and helped me pinpoint some of the
things that have been bothering me in our current discussion of 3.3.

What follows is a bit of thinking aloud. I hope it is not entirely useless.

It comes down to  this: we have not yet really clarified in 3.3
whether we are recommending multiple versions of written content --
that is, whether we want authors to provide alternative versions of
content for people with learning disabilities -- or whether we're
talking about a set of rules to be applied to a single version of
written content.

I know we've mentioned this issue before, and I think we've now
reached the point when we, as a group, have to work out our thinking
on it.

The excellent resources that Graham and Lee and others have been
collecting are of two types, broadly speaking.

1.  We have, on the one hand, advice that draws on the field of web
usability (and, to a certain extent, from general writing manuals)
and aims to improve comprehensibility of web documents for all
readers. "Break up text with appropriate subheadings to facilitate
skimming." "Use structural markup to emphasize key points." "Trim the
fat." And so forth. Advice in this vein could usefully apply to just
about all web pages, regardless of content or audience.

2. In addition, we have advice on how to write for readers with
learning disabilities. "Use the most elementary language possible
(common words)." "Avoid the subjunctive tense." "Use second-person
imperative." "Eschew the semicolon." "Avoid metaphor and
abstraction." Depending on the content, advice of this nature might
best apply to an alternative version of a web page.

Given the far-reaching consequences that WCAG documents have when
they are adopted or adapted as legislation, it is important that we
proceed carefully and get this right. In our work on WCAG 2.0, we
always circle back to a few core principles, which include:

- We want, as much as possible, to leave choice in the hands of the
user. We want to make it possible for users to select the
presentation that fits best with their own needs, abilities, and
preferences.

- We want to make web content as accessible as possible to as many
people as possible.

- We acknowledge that web audiences are diverse in their abilities
and preferences.

- When the needs of different users conflict, offering multiple
options is a solution.

- We want to enrich web content, not impoverish it. (The extent to
which the public misconstrues this aim reflects a failure of
communication on our part.)


We therefore need to consider the fact that, for some content,
multiple versions aimed at different reading levels will be a better
solution than a single, super-simplified version to be used by
everyone. (I know we've considered this fact, and Lisa and I have
been talking about "alternative renderings" in our recent exchanges,
but we have not yet captured it clearly in our documents.) Otherwise,
we risk asking authors to sacrifice the needs and preferences of
their non-learning-disabled readers and, possibly, to strip important
levels of meaning from their (single version of) content.

Let's take one example. Here's the thing about "short, simple" words:
it takes more of them to say what you're trying to say. Economy of
expression is sacrificed. Precision, too. Think of the
circumlocutions we're forced to use when struggling in a foreign
language that we don't know well. Think of carrying heavy rolls of
pennies around in your pocket because you're not allowed to use
quarters or pounds. The English "Make It Simple" guide [1] is
lengthy, monotonous and flat precisely because it is following its
own advice.

By making documents congenial for learning-disabled readers, it is
possible to create a wretched -- and even difficult -- reading
experience for people without learning disabilities. Not always, but
sometimes. Again, it depends on the content. For some content, a
single version might serve all audiences, but for other content,
multiple versions might be required to meet the needs of different
types of readers.

I therefore think we ought to make it clear that we are not trying to
restrict web authors by forcing them to write ALL their content in a
certain way. We're not telling them to eliminate from their prose
anything that a learning-disabled person might have trouble
understanding (just as we are not telling designers to eliminate all
graphics because some audience members cannot see pictures). Rather,
we are asking them to provide alternatives for people with different
needs. Furthermore, we acknowledge that the alternative may lose some
of the richness and nuance of the original, just as alt-text is not
really the equivalent of a photograph.

When devising recommendations for alternative versions of content,
then, we have more latitude. We would be able to say, for example,
"avoid metaphor, complexity, and uncommon words in your alternative
version." This is very different from saying "avoid metaphor,
complexity and uncommon words in all your versions."

I suggest that at upcoming meetings, we discuss which criteria should
apply to all web pages and which should apply to alternative versions
of content.

Jo

[1] http://www.inclusion-europe.org/selfadvocacy/eetr_guidelines.htm
Received on Wednesday, 13 March 2002 11:54:04 GMT

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