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RE: Re[2]: Diabetes websites too complicated

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2004 18:23:25 -0400
To: "'Mike Brown'" <mike@signify.co.nz>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <007401c49aa9$758cf8a0$6601a8c0@bosshog>

Mike Brown wrote:

> How far is it realistic to make comprehension of content an
> accessbility issue? 

Fair or not, it *is* something that we need to consider.  Knowing the
target audience is an important aspect of development, to be sure, but
this point also illustrates *why* mechanical testing and "Bobby" icons
alone are a poor substitute for real, human interaction and input in the
testing phase.

> In building a site, the aim is to make it accessible to
> anyone. I don't think that's unrealistic. We may fail at
> times, or not do it the best way, but it's something we try to attain.
> But to make understanding the content an accessibility issue?
> How far do you go? At what reading age does it become unaccessible?
> Note that I'm not at all arguing against clear, well-written
> and edited content. Or against providing content that is
> understandable by a 9 year old, or someone with Down's
> Syndrome if they are part of the target audience. But does
> every site have to provide content that is understandable "an
> average educated nine year old" in order to be considered accessible?

No, but given the broad subject matter, the importance of it, etc. there
is no reason why a larger site wouldn't/couldn't tailor content to
different groups - from scientific "jargon" for doctors, health
practitioners and others well versed in the subject, right through to a
section targeted at young school age children with simple to grasp, yet
important subject matter (perhaps even with Teacher materials associated
to it).  Each section could then be written with the target audience in

The real key, again, is identifying your audience and providing for
them.  Given this particular subject matter (coupled with the site
owner/authors) would be a (the?) deciding factor.  If a site is produced
with public funds, etc., then yes, a broader scope is a realistic
mandate; conversely, if it is a private site ("My Life with Diabetes"),
then, understandably there is more latitude.  This case is complicated
because it is the NHS Direct Online (NHS being National Health Service?)
- consequently they *would* (IMHO) have an obligation to ensure that the
content is written towards a slightly below average reader constituency,
at least in terms of basic content.  This is not to argue that the whole
site must be written this way, but I believe the article's main thrust
was that "over-all", it was too complicated for the average lay person.

> That's not a requirement of every book in the library on
> diabetes. Why should it be a requirement of every website on diabetes?

I don't think it is.  The WCAG Priority 1-14.1 checkpoint reads:  "Use
the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content". In
this case, what is (again IMO) "appropriate" for the site in question is
content that the average citizen can easily digest, with "Further
Reading" or advanced content available via deeper links and or external
links.  I think the clarion bell was sounding due to the public funds


John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America) 
Received on Tuesday, 14 September 2004 22:23:33 UTC

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