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Re: plain/simple/easy language variant subtag

From: Paul Bohman <paul.bohman@deque.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 21:57:10 -0400
Message-ID: <CA+20umGL6wurNx2VQ323kssuNMX9uYFFKKiJYQ5szsE-eBNozA@mail.gmail.com>
To: Chaals McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Cc: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>, WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
In response to this:

For other people, you have to start by giving them life experience. Good
>> luck with that.
> Parents and teachers do it all the time. What's the problem?

My response: Ok, if you've got a semester (or 18 years, or some other
appropriate time frame) to work with, and the world as your classroom,
that's great. I assumed we were talking about a web page, in which case,
time and space are limited, as are your ability to discern the character
and needs of the audience.

Also, the reason I used a three-year old in my example was to push the
point on the ability to comprehend. I've worked with adults who will never
exceed the capacity of a three-year old (or 8 or some other age, depending
on the individual) for comprehension of complex ideas. Dyslexia and
dyscalculia pale in comparison to the challenge of designing content for
someone like that. And yet, I've seen websites designed precisely for
adults with the maximum cognitive capacity of children. The web sites I'm
thinking of use pictures, videos, audio, and games, and essentially no text
or only very limited text. One such web site was for job training. The web
site showed examples of people doing various jobs, and asked users to
respond to questions like "which job looks more interesting to you?" The
navigation usually consisted of a choice between only two items, which were
usually pictures, and the pathway through the site was essentially
sequential, with no real menu. The site was radically different than nearly
every other web site, and would be inappropriate, or at least not very
useful, to most audiences.

So, can you design web sites for people with limited comprehension?
Absolutely. But none of the target users of those web sites were going to
understand the totality of "change management theory" in large
organizations. Try as you might, they won't be able to run a large
organization based on what you teach them, no matter how well or how simply
you explain it.

And it really does come down to the complexity of the information, at least
with the audiences I'm talking about. These adults have had life
experiences, but they didn't comprehend those life experiences as fully as
someone with average intelligence would have -- because of the complexity
of those life experiences -- so they are on par with the child of 3 or 8 or
whatever age is comparable for that individual. The root of their
difficulty or inability to comprehend is in the complexity of the
information, and, by extension, their inability to connect disparate pieces
of information, or to recognize patterns, or to critically analyze and draw
conclusions. They might also have issues forming long term memories, or may
have other limitations.

That said, there are specific conditions of the brain -- defects, injuries,
diseases, etc. -- that target very specific parts of perception or
cognition, in which case they don't have a generalized inability to process
complexities, but rather a very specific deficiency. In some of those
cases, simple language may help. In other cases -- like aphasia -- language
itself may be the problem, and you're going to have to come up with another
way to convey information that doesn't use language at all.

There are so many variations of human cognitive deficiency that your
concluding question of "What's the problem?" -- aside from being casually
dismissive -- seems more than a little myopic.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training, Deque Systems, Inc
703-225-0380, ext.121
Received on Thursday, 17 September 2015 01:57:57 UTC

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