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From: Sally Paveley <sallyp@advisory-unit.org.uk>
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 12:29:07 +0100
Message-ID: <000301beb1a2$4db3cd40$eb18883e@katherine-s>
To: "w3" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I joined this list because I have an interest in web access for people with learning difficulties and have found the current debate extremely interesting. I would like to add a few comments to Wayne’s lengthy but thought provoking response. 

"Can we all be nice please"

Yes, I’m a firm believer in being nice.

"David Poehlman is right about the fundamental distinction between accessiblity and understanding;"

But the issue here is that it is a difficulty with understanding that makes many things inaccessible to people who have learning difficulties. 

"Ought the WAI confront this issue of the economic inaccessibility of the web, and campaign for computers and Internet connections to be distributed to all human beings at birth? It would be nice, but seems self-evidently unlikely, at least for the WAI at this time." 

There is a fundamental distinction between disadvantage and disability. 

"Ought the WAI confront the issue of the inaccessibility of the web on technical grounds, where a site has been designed in a restrictively non-standards-compliant way such that the access software used by a blind user cannot make sense of it? Of course it should and so it does. Where does the non-reading community stand in between these two poles?" 

The ‘non-reading community’ is not a helpful concept. There may be many reasons for a person being a non-reader. Having a learning difficulty may be one of them. Accessing text for people with learning difficulties is about both ‘reading/hearing’ it and ‘understanding’ it. The former can be addressed much more easily with technical solutions than the latter.

"The W3C's commitment to lead the Web to its full potential includes promoting a high degree of usability for people with disabilities."

"This seems clear enough. The WAI's commitment is to making sure that the web is as usable as possible to all. It is a commitment to the proper structure and presentation of the information stored on the web. It in no way makes any demands whatsoever on the complexity of that information itself, except asking that it be presented in a form appropriate to context,"

I agree that the web contains specialised information that is of interest only to other specialists and cognitive access would be beyond the ability or inclination of the rest of us. But there is lots of other information that people with learning difficulties would find useful. My feeling is that providers of information to a wide audience are concerned about complexity and would welcome guidance. The provision of such guidance may not be a current concern of WAI but could, as you suggest, be a valued addition at some time in the future.

Sally Paveley
The Advisory Unit: Computers in Education
126 Gt North Rd
Tel: 01707 266714
Web Site www.advisory-unit.org.uk
Email sallyp@advisory-unit.org.uk
Received on Tuesday, 8 June 1999 07:33:26 UTC

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