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RE: WWWAC's unsupportable recommendation on links

From: Andy Judson <ajudson@computing.dundee.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 12:53:51 -0000
Message-ID: <31C6D68FA597D411B04D00E02965883B033D4678@mailhost>
To: 'Joe Clark' <joeclark@joeclark.org>, 'WAI-GL' <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Cc: "'c.a.nicolle@lboro.ac.uk'" <c.a.nicolle@lboro.ac.uk>

Hi Joe, et-al.

Sorry for the delayed reply, but the lead author of the report you discussed
was away and I wasn't in a position to comment. So here is, what is WWAAC
followed by a response from Colette Nicolle the lead on the report. 

The WWAAC (World-Wide Augmentative and Alternative Communication) project is
a pan-european initiative to make web and email-based technology more
accessible to people with communication, language and/or cognitive
impairment. This was a 3 year project that finished just a few months ago.
In terms of results / contributions to web content accessibility there were
a couple of outcomes, the concept coding approach which we have described to
this list before and is now part of the RDF Techniques document that Lisa is
drafting and the document you have referred to. If you want to know more on
the concept coding work then I'd be happy to discuss this with you further,
but for starters there is a mass of information at

I was involved in the WWAAC project, as was Bengt Farre and there were many
others, but we're just the ones on the WAI lists. Unfortunately we were 99%
focused on the concept coding idea, and must admit that we probably didn't
keep an eye on the guidelines enough. We are seeking funding to continue the
development of concept coding. Bengt, has already received some further
funding and we (Dundee University, Scotland) are submitting a small proposal
shortly. Following these short projects we are hoping to establish a larger
EU/International project.

Anyway, to the points you raise, here is Colette's comments on behalf of the
thanks Andy Judson...

Joe, Your points emphasise and clarify that certain guidelines are not
suitable for mainstream developments, and the recommendation to "avoid the
use of embedded links within text" is one of them and focuses too closely on
the specific needs of people with dyslexia.  So, thanks, Joe, for finding
this weak point in our recommendations!

>From the early stages of the WWAAC project, we anticipated a need for
guidelines in 2 forms: 

1. General guidelines to ensure that all Web sites can be made more
accessible by more people, and
2. Guidelines aimed at information providers developing sites specifically
for AAC users. 

The core target group of the WWAAC project is multiply impaired users with
communication difficulties, not learning difficulties in general. However,
support for people with communication difficulties can learn from the needs
of people from other user groups, for example people with specific learning
disabilities such as dyslexia. Dealings with the  English Language Study
Unit at Loughborough University recommend that weblinks should not be
embedded in text.  Dyslexic readers rely heavily on semantics in order to
decode words, and they suggest that if Web links have no meaning in a
sentence, they will therefore take away the sense of the sentence. The more
web links in a sentence the worse this difficulty could be.  Also, dyslexic
students often benefit from plain English, clear to the point and spaced
out, e.g. bullet points.

Perhaps we could suggest that some of our recommendations for very specific
user groups, like considering alternatives to embedding links in the text,
could be included as subsections to, or links from, the main body of the
WCAG.  This would give those developing websites for AAC users (or other
specific disabilities) the kind of guidance they may need. On the other
hand, a more general recommendation to "consider the number, location and
focus of links on a page" could still be useful to all developers.

If you have any other "constructive criticisms" on how to improve and/or
apply any of the other suggestions from our project, then we would be very
happy to hear them. After all, we're all pulling in the same direction, that
is, to achieve a more accessible and usable web.

Colette Nicolle (for the WWAAC project)

Colette Nicolle, BSc, MSc, FErgS 
Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute (ESRI) 
Loughborough University 
Holywell Building 
Holywell Park 
Loughborough, Leicestershire 
LE11 3UZ 
Switchboard: +44 (0)1509 283300 
Direct Dial: +44 (0)1509 283369 
Email: c.a.nicolle@lboro.ac.uk 

>(where they give WCAG recommendations in a PDF-- *nice*)
>    o Avoid the use of embedded links within text. Use bullets or 
> numbered lists instead. Place links at the end of each section and not 
> within the body of the contents.
> An excellent way to turn the Web into the collection of CERN physics 
> papers with endnotes that is so dearly desired by those who hate the Web 
> we have now. WCAG WG can safely ignore this unworkable proposal.
Received on Tuesday, 16 November 2004 13:04:09 UTC

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