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RE: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Ira McDonald <imcdonal@sdsp.mc.xerox.com>
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 11:35:13 -0400
Message-Id: <199906121535.LAA24423@appsrv5.sdsp.mc.xerox.com>
To: apembert@crosslink.net, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Hi Kynn and Anne,                                Saturday (12 June 1999)

With mixed success in her examples, Anne has made a good point (the
shades of meaning of 'accessible' and 'understandable').

I think the use of jargon is much of our problem.  The definition of
'accessible' used (implicitly) in WCAG seems to be the *jargon*
definition which is current among blind and deaf computer users -
something like 'has no *presentation* barriers'.

Kynn, you scoffed at pulling out dictionaries.  But I think the standard
definition of a word (*not* the jargon one) is what leaps to mind in any
new context (such as people reading WCAG and trying to conform).

Definitions from the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993):

accessible:                                  vvvvvvvvvv
1.  Able to be reached, entered, influenced, understood, etc.
2.  (Rare) Able to be used as an access.

understandable:
1.  (Obsolete) Able to understand; capable of understanding.
2.  That can be understood; intelligible.

- 'reached' and 'entered' address presentation;
- 'influenced' addresses interaction (such as HTML forms);
- 'understood' is about comprehension, pure and simple.

Overcoming presentation barriers (by using style sheets, screen readers,
etc.) doesn't lead to comprehension if the information is still in a
natural language not spoken (or read) by the end user.  Excellent work
is going on to improve the quality of machine translation of Web pages
between natural languages.  Much of this work involves discovering the
contextual cues that influence the meaning of words (i.e., deeper
analysis than mere sentence diagrams).

Machine translation that alters reading level might be hard, but it
seems to be the only practical assistive technology for people with
cognitive difficulties (short of teaching all Web authors to write
simultaneously at several reading levels, with some HTML or XML markup,
which seems singularly unlikely for the forseeable future).

Cheers,
- Ira McDonald (outside network software consultant at Xerox)
  High North Inc
  221 Ridge Ave
  Grand Marais, MI  49839
  USA
  906-494-2697/2434 (home/office)
Received on Saturday, 12 June 1999 11:35:23 GMT

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