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Re: Cognitive Disability

From: Terje Bless <link@pobox.com>
Date: 08 Nov 2001 16:42:01 +0100
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Cc: W3C WAI IG <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, Jonathan Chetwynd <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>
Message-Id: <1005233668.20033.73.camel@tux>
On Thu, 2001-11-08 at 15:56, Al Gilman wrote:

>There is a simple broad disconnect visible in the above discussion.

Yes, as I wrote, I'm having big trouble understanding this issue.
On all levels. :-(

>The general trend you noticed is adaptive for people for whom "out
>of sight is out of mind" is an above-average problem.

I do not understand this sentence. Do you mean that for people with
(some forms of) cognitive disabilities it is not good engineering to
remove options -- as it often is for a general audience -- because
options that are not visible are not just out of the way but actually
do not exist in a very real sense? Or is it the exact opposite you mean?

Or am I not even close? :-)

>What you are assuming as modus_operendi is dependent on the user
>extracting a model of the theme or context and carrying that stuff
>between frames of display in their head.

Ok. Let's see if I'm following along.

[ Assume all following sentences end with question marks! :-) ]

Designing for some "concept" or "model" is based on a flawed premise.
People with Cognitive Disabilities do not (necessarily) form any such
mental or conceptual model. Only the immediate is accessible; including
not only "visible on screen" but also "currently grabbing my attention."

In other words, the "noisy" quality /I/ perceive is actually an attempt
to place all necessary controls within an "attention span", and
distracting animations, garish colors, etc. are drawing attention to
important elements that would otherwise not stand out sufficiently.

>One general characteristic that these sites try to ameliorate
>is to lessen dependency on that 'cognitive' part of the process.

A tighter coupling of "See" and "Do"?

>My attempt at putting all this in a conceptual framework can be found at 
>HCI Fundamentals and PWD Failure Modes
>  <http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/ud4grid/#_Toc495220368>

Aha! Here comes the good stuff. I'm going to print that out, curl up in
my comfy-chair, and get down to some serious reading. Thanks! :-)

>>>what type of information are you looking for?
>>Anything that will give me a fighting chance to understand Cognitive
>>Disabilities in general (from 10,000 feet), and the needs of people
>>with various types and severities of such disabilities as relates to
>>web design. I'm completely blank on the subject -- as opposed general
>>accessibility where I at least have a fighting chance to understand
>>with the help of the WAI materials and a little help :-) -- and don't
>>really see any good way to attack the problem.
>AG:: Your statement is broken where it comes to saying you can
>understand "general accessibility" from the extant WAI materials.
>Until you have helped the WAI get its hands around remediation in
>cases of cognitive disabilities, we aren't there yet.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I don't mean to claim I can
actually understand general Accessibility from the WAI materials. I'm
saying that issues such as physical disability (poor eyesight,
arthritis, etc.) are sufficiently near to my sphere of experience that I
can identify some likely issues such users will encounter. When that
partial understanding is coupled with the existing WAI materials I gain
enough of an understanding that I stand a fighting chance of making the
right design choices with ample help from people with more understanding
then myself.

I willingly admit that I don't "understand" accessibility as such.

However, this was meant to be "as opposed to" accessibility for people
with cognitive disabilities. I know absolutely nothing of that subject
area and cannot try to reason out the issues because it resonates with
nothing in my sphere of experience.

For instance, two years ago I set up a scanning interface controlled by
a single large push-button (switch?) for a patient with severe paralysis
(use of only two fingers, weakened eye-sight, etc.). Trying to use that
interface with full use of all my limbs, and the resulting frustration,
gives me a fairly good general idea of the sorts of problems such users
will encounter. But that's only on a purely physical level. When you
bring cognitive disabilities into the picture I have no frame of

I assume my inability to understand the EARL draft doesn't count? :-)
Received on Thursday, 8 November 2001 10:42:12 UTC

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