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FW: Modifying print and web materials for people with cognitive impairments

From: Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 13:31:40 -0600
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <013001c3a49c$9a1c1150$c517a8c0@USD320002X>

From the RRTC on Aging with Cognitive Disabilities (via NCDDR's Research
Exchange).  Please let me know if you see anything useful (to us, or to you
in working on WCAG).


Modifying printed materials 

People with cognitive disabilities have a range of abilities to read and
comprehend. There is no one all-inclusive way to ensure what is presented
can be understood. To enhance readability, however, the information should
be presented in clear, concise language. To make content clearer and more
understandable, use shorter sentences, choosing common rather than complex
words. Provide definitions of new or uncommon words that must be used. Be
sure that concepts are presented separately and in a logical sequence.
Additional contextual material and explanations may be needed to facilitate
understanding. Field-testing with self-advocates and others with cognitive
disabilities will show what level of readability is appropriate.

The readability of text can easily be checked. For example, Microsoft WordT
software has the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale and the Flesch Reading Ease
scores as part of the Spelling and Grammar features. The Reading Scale uses
the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence to determine
the reading grade level up to the 12th grade. The average reading level of
the general population is around the 8th grade, so materials for people with
cognitive disabilities will be more easily understood when written at the
4th-5th grade level. The Reading Ease score is based on a 100-point scale,
with higher numbers indicating greater ease of comprehension.

To turn on the Readability feature in WordT, go to the Main Menu and under
"Word," select "Preferences." There, select "Spelling and Grammar." Under
"Grammar," check the box for "Check grammar with spelling." Next, check the
box for "Show readability statistics." Then click "OK." At the end of a
spelling check, a box will provide the following readability statistics:

*	Word, character, paragraph, and sentence counts 
*	Average number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and
characters per word 
*	Percent of passive sentences (lower is better) 
*	Flesch Reading Ease score (0-100) (higher indicates easier) 
*	Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale (up to grade 12) 

Other changes in text presentation can help readability. Breaking text into
shorter sections, each with a specific point, helps comprehension. Using
bold headings and numbering the items, rather than using bullets, also
clarifies the content. A question-and-answer format is more easily
understood than straight narrative. Occasional checkpoint questions can be
included, to ensure the reader understands the material already covered
before new ideas are presented.

Use pictures or graphic images to demonstrate or depict points presented in
text. The images should be closely related to the content and carry
meaningful information. Take care to ensure the document does not become
cluttered with images. More pages, with less on each page, will make the
document more reader-friendly.

Color can also be used to help separate points or to identify sections that
go together. Use of color just to brighten a page might end up making it
more distracting or confusing for some readers. See the related list
<http://www.ncddr.org/du/researchexchange/v08n03/3_tips.html>  of tips
developed by self-advocates from the Milton Keynes People First

Modifying documents on the Web

Many of the suggestions presented to make printed materials more readable
and comprehensible can also be applied to documents that are presented on
the World Wide Web. Multi-media files on the Web can help reinforce the
printed words. For example, an audio version can be provided, where the
words are read aloud. 

Designers need to keep their pages simple and clear, without several frames
or links that can take the reader to other areas where they may lose the
thread of what they are reading. To help with navigation, use simple
icons/colors to identify elements of the site or pages to be accessed. Keep
navigation tools in the same place on each page. Consistency in design will
guide the visitor.

The  <http://www.ncddr.org/cgi-bin/good-bye.cgi?url=http://www.w3c.org>
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) receives funding from NIDDR as partial
support for the
<http://www.ncddr.org/cgi-bin/good-bye.cgi?url=http://www.w3c.org/wai/> Web
Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI's Education and Outreach Working
Group is developing a document on "How People with Disabilities Use the Web"
to provide an introduction to use of the Web by people with disabilities.
The current draft illustrates some specific requirements of people with
different disabilities, including cognitive and neurological disabilities,
when using Web sites and Web-based applications. The draft describes
scenarios, barriers, and possible solutions, and offers supporting
information for the guidelines and technical work of the WAI. The final
version may eventually be published as a W3C Note and maintained by the W3C.
The current document is a W3C Working Draft:

Another article in this issue describes
<http://www.ncddr.org/du/researchexchange/v08n03/4_think.html> Think and
Link: E-mail for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities. This NIDRR-funded
project focuses on how people use E-mail and how to make E-mail more
accessible for people with cognitive disabilities.

"Web <http://www.ncddr.org/du/researchexchange/v08n03/8_access.html>
Accessibility for People with Cognitive Disabilities: Universal Design
Principles At Work!" is an article that discusses the process used by the
ADA Insights project to develop print and Web-based documents on the
Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically for people with cognitive

These articles and others in this issue demonstrate the wide range of
abilities and issues to address in modifying materials for people with
cognitive disabilities. There is no single strategy to make information
accessible, and useful, for all. Maintaining a relationship with
self-advocates is key to being able to provide information in usable,
understandable formats.


Received on Thursday, 6 November 2003 14:31:42 UTC

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