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Re: Diabetes websites too complicated

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2004 13:11:03 +0300
To: "Mike Brown" <mike@signify.co.nz>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <opsebdcpjiw5l938@widsith.local>

On Tue, 14 Sep 2004 21:13:49 +1200, Mike Brown <mike@signify.co.nz> wrote:

> Alan> This news item describes a study of the readability and  
> understandability
> Alan> of Diabetes web sites. Most require a reading age of 11 to 14  
> years while
> Alan> that of the general population in the UK is (amazingly) nine  
> years. There
> Alan> doesn't seem to be any mention of web accessibility guidelines.
>
> This is not entirely meant tongue in cheek, but surely the answer is
> to increase the reading ability of the UK population!
>
> I should have thought that if you can present diabetes information
> online such that a 11-14 year old can understand it, then you've done a
> good job.
>
> Is the "reading age" of a site, assuming it can be measured, an
> accessibility issue? Is there a limit to how far information can be
> "simplified" before it loses its usefulness?

Certainly there is a limit to how far information can be simplifie before  
it uses its usefulness. But there are plenty of 7 year-olds with diabetes  
(to pick one example) who are for the most part able to manage their  
condition by themselves, given information in an appropriate form. I  
suspect that increasing their reading age to that of a 14-year old would  
take, on average, about 7 years (for each one)...

A relative with a slightly different condition, and with a reading age  
well below his real age (He's a smart boy, but at 18 they discovered that  
one reason he had an effective reading age of about 10 was an undiagnosed  
and apparently rare vision problem) was able to manage his day-to-day  
requirements thanks to some simple cards - illustrated written  
explanations of what he could and could not do. Anther relative who at 30  
has a reading age of about 3 or 4 (that is, effectively pre-literate, but  
capable of visual comprehension of information) needs further simplified  
information. If he has a child, who has a particular medical condition,  
one way or another the information he needs will ahve to be presented...

Yes, the reading age of a person is clearly linked to disability - in a  
number of cases disabilities which are widely recognised, in others  
disabilities which are less well recognised or understood.

An important point is that this does not mean the information should not  
exist in a more compact and technical form. Just that if it only exists in  
that form, a number of people who are likely to need it will not be able  
to make use of it.

By the way, similar studies to the one Alan has cited are the reason why  
organisations that develop or use military hardware are often leaders in  
the field of clear and unambiguous expression. I'm very grateful for their  
work. Not least because it has been transferred to multinational  
corporations developing comles machinery, with results that are helpful in  
my everyday life.

(You know the jokes about not being able to read the video recorder  
manual? When the comany loses $1million because printer cartidges are  
changed on a schedule and not when they are empty, they figure out how to  
make the manual clear. Have a look at a modern photocopier's instructions.  
They're not perfect, but they are a lot better than a lot of the  
information you find on the web that is important to the everyday lives of  
everyday people...)

cheers

Chaals

-- 
Charles McCathieNevile         charles@sidar.org
FundaciĆ³n Sidar             http://www.sidar.org
Received on Tuesday, 14 September 2004 11:11:38 UTC

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