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reading vs. writing [2]

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2000 14:44:31 -0400
Message-Id: <200009021830.OAA317128@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Cc: jonathan chetwynd <jc@signbrowser.org.uk>
AG::

In "reading, writing and 'rithmetic," 'reading' clearly refers to decoding
the results of writing.  But this is a caricature of curriculum, not a
definition of the English verb "to read."  In colloquial English in
general, we talk of reading palms or reading the tea leaves.  Many forms of
interpreting experience are included, not just decoding textually-recorded
language.

CBMcD:: "...someone is actually doing something to make reading and
communication more possible in this text-heavy learning environment."

WL: I wish I could understand the notion of making reading more possible
within an environment that wasn't "text-heavy". Perhaps it would be
"nice" for people for whom text is a problem but just how is it
"possible".

So, Love is justified in thinking "reading, writing and 'rithmetic" is
relevant, because Cynthia is indeed referring to instructional settings
where one of the desired outcomes is that the students have the skill of
decoding standard writing.

Decoding text is a desired end state, but not the appropriate method of
approaching that end state, in teaching, even teaching reading.  

To make progress, one must first enrich the environment of experience until
the learner _is reading_ the intended message.  This is why children's
books are so heavily illustrated, etc.  And learning to read starts with
being read to.  Once this cycle of successful reading is operating, we
gradually wean the learner off reliance on the non-textual factors of the
experience.  But the student _is reading_ all the while.  

Teaching reading, where 'reading' is taken in the narrow sense, is only
achieved through practicing reading, where 'reading' is taken in the
broader sense.  Learning to read, according to the best current practice
known today, involves the multimedia experience of the lap, the voice, and
the bodily and emotional warmth of a parent.  The dry core is just that,
not the whole enchilada.

Where I say "enrich the ... experience" above I am using 'rich' in exactly
the same sense as the proponents of interactive video when they talk of the
joys of rich media.  This is to say that dependency on _recall_ to perform
the decoding of abstractly encoded signals is minimized, and the
representation appeals to the _recognition_ of verisimilitude, the illusion
of real experience, to the greatest extent possible.

We can't just ignore the virtue of trompe_l'oeil verisimilitude and get
anywhere in Web media.  It's just too real; we have to come to terms with
it.  We do have to push for practices which guard how much of the message
actually shows up in the text; because after text-to-speech processing
that's all she wrote.  But this has to be accomplished in terms of a blend
of encodings that appeal to the senses and to the concepts both, and can be
read at multiple levels and through multiple media- and sense-specific
transformations.  Excessive reliance on either the words or the pictures
will a) reduce comprehension across the board and b) cut some people with
disabilities clean out of getting any of the pie.  Either way.

Framing this issue as an either/or commits us to factional conflict.  Our
only hope of deserving the "Universal Design" label is to pursue media
which accomplish a graceful blend of both words-in-text and less encoded
evocations of what is alluded to.

However, I have to sympathize.  Freeing web accessibility from an obsessive
focus on text is like freeing the student of Physics from the assumption
that physical geometry is Euclidean.  In the end the model is simpler and
the truth of its applicability is more all-encompassing.  But it's a hard
pill to swallow going down.

Al
Received on Saturday, 2 September 2000 14:30:05 GMT

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