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Re: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 18:26:26 -0700
Message-Id: <4.1.19990610181711.02371ed0@mail.idyllmtn.com>
To: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Cc: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 03:53 PM 6/10/1999 , Anne Pemberton wrote:
>A post or two back I think I answered your question. Jonathan may differ
>because he works with the lower-level populations than I have. I said then
>my main concern was for information sites, news and especially government
>sites with information that was useful to such folks, should be accessible.

I think we all agree that such sites should be "accessible", we
are just differing on what is meant by that.  When you use it
above, what specifically are you thinking of?  Can you expand
on your meaning of the word "accessible"?  Such as "accessible
(understandable) to whom?"

>I would include any sites that provide useful local information, such as
>bus, train, airline, or TV schedules. Whether the sites that collect PHD
>dissertations are accessible is not my concern because they do not usually
>include information of interest to the population in question.

When you start making judgment calls such as this is where you
venture into shaky ground -- I've heard many designers of highly
graphical web sites state that they don't have to make their
sites accessible to the blind, because the blind aren't their
target audience.  Before you can disqualify certain people from
"access" to a certain site, you need to be careful you're not
deciding _for them_.

>I have also
>said that the FIRST PAGE, or homepage of the site is most critical, so the
>user can determine if there is anything of interest or to move on. 

It's a common misconception among even experienced professional
web designers that the "front page" of a site is the one through
which people will enter the web site.  However, it's not true;
due to the nature of the web, someone could be entering at nearly
any point on a web site, not just from the "top down."  Thus it
is important that all levels of a web site have at least minimal
functional accessibility.

>Let me add one point, tho, that I don't think I've made before. The
>guidelines that David Poehlman created, that would make the web more
>accessible to the cognitively impaired, would also make the web more
>accessible to students in the K-12 category whose cognition isn't developed

There are also great benefits to people who are multilingual and
not reading in their native tongue, or to readers who are not 
even fluent in the language in question.

>When I developed the Five Forks site (mentioned in my last post to
>Kynn) I had in mind high schoolers using the site, but the most recent SOLs
>in Virginia now include studies of the Civil War in the 3rd and 4th grades,
>and my site probably isn't as useful to the new younger students as it
>should be. It's something I need to address when I do the next update of
>the site.

Do you believe that a site's "accessibility" (understandability)
should be dependent upon the intended audience, the actual audience,
or a theoretical "minimal standard" for the web, such as writing all
material for the WWW at a third grade (U.S. education system)
reading level?

Can you offer any advice to web authors that would help them
determine beforehand what comprehension level to aim for, or,
like you, will they need to continually assess their sites and
see if simplification/"dumbing down" of all content is

Is it advisable to offer different versions of the same information,
at different reading levels?  E.g., here's one for 7th grade reading
level, here's one for 3rd?  (BTW, it occurs to me that this part
of the discussion might be opaque to those of you who are un-
familiar with the US education system.  When I was in grade N,
I was N+5 years old, if that helps for reference.)  If you chose
such a route, how would you label such levels without being

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Thursday, 10 June 1999 21:27:23 UTC

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