RE: [External] : Re: Content Usable pronouns and Tal

Following up on Rain's point, we should end the conversation here on email. While there was no consensus for the single instance, there was consensus (with a single dissent) to let COGA review the thoughts and opinions from the working group, and have COGA make the final decision on how to introduce the topic in the document and how to structure the references throughout the document.  Given the wide variety of thoughts and opinions on this, COGA’s decision is very likely to result in an action for which some members might not fully support.  Never-the-less, nearly all members agreed to send this back to COGA for their continued review, and to respect and accept COGA’s eventual decision. We have also reached out to the W3 diversity related groups and invited their input.
As moving this to those discussions was the near unanimous consensus of the working group, this is how we will proceed.
Charles Adams

From: Rain Michaels <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2021 9:21 AM
To: John Foliot <>
Cc: Lisa Seeman <>; Wilco Fiers <>; Laura Carlson <>; Rachael Bradley Montgomery <>; Shawn Henry <>; WCAG <>; public-cognitive-a11y-tf <>
Subject: [External] : Re: Content Usable pronouns and Tal

Hello all,

I hope I'm not stepping out of line, but I have a request to make.

I'm feeling very overwhelmed by the circular nature of this email thread.

The COGA task force is meeting again tomorrow (Thursday, April 1), and will have the opportunity to review the conversation, concerns, and goals. These concerns have been very clearly stated, and a number of potential ways forward have been proposed. There is a lot of information that the task force has not had the opportunity to discuss yet.

I would personally like to ask that we not continue hashing this out over email until the COGA task force (of which I'm part) has the chance to consider all of the feedback and propose a solution.



On Wed, Mar 31, 2021 at 4:33 AM John Foliot <<>> wrote:
Hi Lisa

That is part of the problem: only providing this once smacks of tokenism, and is the least preferable of the 4 options: none, all, some, or one.

I have previously noted that the above list was also my preference listed in that order: either we commit to taking "the teachable moment" and apply this pronoun information to multiple personas, or we don't do it, period.

I (and others on the call) do NOT think we have found the right balance and find the current situation unacceptable - there is apparently no consensus for the single instance. Sorry.

(Sent from my mobile, apologies for any spelling mistakes)

On Wed, Mar 31, 2021, 3:43 AM Lisa Seeman <<>> wrote:
Hi Wilco

Yes I think you understood  The task force felt that the way it is written was a good compromise between comprehension and inclusion.
Personally (facilitator hat off) I think if we feel as a group that we have the right balance, and are doing the right thing, we should not worry too much about an objection.


On Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 2:23 PM Wilco Fiers <<>> wrote:
Hey John,

If we're going to decide against inclusion (which is in the mission statement of the W3C), it seems like we're going to need to have good arguments for that. I'm not too sure we have those. Can you expand on your reasoning a little further?

1. Concerns related to internationalization/translation: The internet's full of articles about gender neutral pronouns in various languages. Not all languages have gendered pronouns, in which case there's nothing to translate. Just omit and move on. But for all of the examples I've heard so far, I found articles explaining gender neutral pronouns, including Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Finish, French and German. It strikes me that if you can translate something as complex as a poem how could something as straight-forward as a pronoun not be translatable? Even if for some reason it isn't possible to translate, the "use their name" option is still available to the translator, is it not?

2. Concerns related to cultural norms and laws: Obviously, we'll want to avoid breaking laws. But the only example of it that was shared was the Russian law about distributing materials on sexuality (not gender) to children. This document isn't written with minors as its target audience. Can you explain why you think this law might apply here? Are there any laws that specifically prohibit the use of gender neutral language that we'd need to take into consideration?

Then culture; Shouldn't the mission of the W3C; a mission to building an open web for everyone take presidence over culture? It seems to me like what we're doing at WAI is to try to change cultures to be more inclusive, more considerate of the needs of different people. One of the things this document is trying to promote is not just to use "middle of the road" personas, but to look from broad and diverse perspectives. That's the whole point of personas. It feels like a serious omission to include diversity on abilities, diversity on ethnicity, but to leave out or hide away diversity of gender. At this point, this argument has been completely hypothetical. John is arguing on behalf of "other cultures", but do we actually know anyone, any organization, any government, whatever, who would not to use this document because it has a gender neutral persona in it?

3. Concerns related to comprehension and purpose: As Lisa says "people often come sentence a sense that they are not sure what it is about, but if they understand the rest of it, they are ok." If I understand that right, even if someone doesn't know about gender neutral pronouns, using them once or twice isn't a problem for comprehension of the persona. Am I misunderstanding the argument here?

I don't think we should have this be decided based on "some languages" and "some cultures and laws". If we have actual examples of a language, or an organization or a region that wouldn't adopt this document because of this persona, fair enough. That's an argument. But so far nobody's produced any that I couldn't contradict with 5 minutes of research.

 Kind regards,

On Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 3:01 PM John Foliot <<>> wrote:
Hi Lisa,

You have just argued for why this one instance should be removed from the document.

If, as you say, " is not known to many people..." then why are we adding it? You cannot have both the "we need to support diversity" argument, and the "not everyone understands this" argument at the same time. In other words, if stating this for all (or at least more than one) persona(s) is confusing, then surely adding it to only ONE persona is equally if not MORE confusing... ("why are they saying this about only this persona? Is 'gender identity disorder' a medical condition and part of their disability?" - see comments about Iran below.)

I've had my reservations about our documents trying to be all things for all people in the past, and I continue to maintain that this is getting out of scope for the goal of this document, which is to focus on the needs of users with cognitive disabilities.

If we are insisting on using this as a learning opportunity to address other social inequalities, fine (and I was prepared to back down slightly), but do so in a way that does not promote tokenism, which I argue today that is *EXACTLY* what is happening here. Your latest argument that this can be confusing for some users (the *impacted audience*) is the final justification against adding this content.

To recap, I am opposed to advancing this for the following reasons:

  *   Concerns related to internationalization/translation: some languages are gender neutral, and this is going to cause translation problems (I have previously cited Chinese, and note that this past week W3C contact Ivan Herman remarked that Hungarian has no gendered pronouns either:<;!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVyMLUYDSQ$> - apparently this is true for Finnish as well.)
  *   Concerns related to cultural norms and laws: I have previously cited the 2013 Russian gay propaganda law ("for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values"), and how adding this editorial content MAY run afoul of that legislation (<;!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVyKWFmjxg$>). This legislation "... prohibit(s) the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" among minors."
In Iran, the current policy is that Trans persons are not "thought of as deviants", but as having a medical illness (gender identity disorder) with a cure (sex reassignment surgery). This may be a moot point however, as in Iran, the government heavily censors material available on the internet (a 2013 analysis found that nearly half of the 500 most popular sites on the internet are blacklisted in Iran) and Trans people cannot research what it means to be transgender or connect with others in the community.  (source:<;!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVzzWyy84Q$>) Q: what will this do to our document for Iran/Iranians?
  *   Concerns related to comprehension and purpose: According to our own internal COGA Task Force, "... it is not known to many people, and we want to minimize learning new things..." - that adding this pronoun information is adding an additional learning burden to the COGA community (according to the experts) and may detract from the purpose of this document.
Given that any one of these could be significant, and that likely adding all three together even more so, I believe we are over-shooting our mark here and advocate for the removal of this particular labeling from the Tal persona.  I will now formally oppose the publication of this document AS IT IS CURRENTLY written for these reasons.



On Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 5:51 AM Lisa Seeman <<>> wrote:
Hi John,
Coga thought about this, but did not like adding it to every persona as it is not known to many people, and we want to minimize learning new things to understand this content.
Having a sentence in one persona is compromise that we felt we can do. people often come sentence a sense that they are not sure what it is about, but if they understand the rest of it, they are ok.

On Thu, Mar 25, 2021 at 7:23 PM John Foliot <<>> wrote:
Hi Rain,

Thanks for this research!! It is quite interesting.

As an additional "option" (consideration?), if we *DO* continue to include the statement that Tal prefers to be identified as they/them/their, what if we include this for *all* of the personas: make it a standard bit of information about all of the personas, not just the one. I think that would help a little in reducing my impression of 'tokenism' ("Look, we've got one of those too!" - yes, that comes off as insensitive, and I do not mean it that way - it's simply an observation that it could be interpreted that way).

I also continue to be concerned about cultural sensitivity - not every culture is as accepting of gender diversity as our increasingly secular Western society, and I believe we need to be mindful of that as well.



(Related: editorial note - the text currently reads "Tal like to be referred to (pronouns) as they/them/theirs" - should it not be "Tal likes to be referred to (pronouns) as Tal/they/them/theirs" - i.e.the addition of the "s" on "like")

On Thu, Mar 25, 2021 at 12:26 PM Rain Michaels <<>> wrote:
Hello all,

I'm hoping that my comments below don't further complicate or confuse this conversation, but after reading the conversation that followed, I connected directly with a researcher who has done a lot of work around the intersection of cognitive and gender diversity in order to better understand how important it is that we include a non-binary persona.

This researcher confirmed the following:
·         Choosing to use one's name instead of a pronoun (as Rachael proposed in option 3) is an approach that will be recognized and appreciated by the community we are trying to include, as it is both a personal preference, and also a self-protective preference that offers more subtly.
·         There is a higher than average prevalence of individuals with cognitive difference also identifying as non-binary; these individuals are left out in so many ways that it would be a small and positive gesture for us to include them in the Tal persona.
·         A good resource to help think of the importance of this single move: Gender Dysphoria and People with Intellectual Disability<;!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVw826iYXQ$>
Additionally, given the link to the emerging style recommendation from EOWG that Laura referenced<*Personas_and_use_cases__;Iw!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVyb26MhGA$>, and given that we do have many personas, including Tal as a non-binary individual who prefers to be referred to by name feels like an important thing for us to do.


On Wed, Mar 24, 2021 at 11:24 AM Laura Carlson <<>> wrote:
Hi Rachael and all,

I prefer option 1 and 3 combined.

If specifying pronouns in our personas is going to help to promote
diversity, equality, and inclusiveness, we should be doing it.

It seems like the Education & Outreach Working Group (EOWG) may be
working on persona pronouns for the WAI Style Guide:<*Personas_and_use_cases__;Iw!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVyb26MhGA$>

Perhaps Shawn may have some guidance for us?

Thank you,

Kind Regards,

On 3/23/21, Rachael Bradley Montgomery <<>> wrote:
> Hello,
> Thank you for the thoughtful discussion at today's meeting about the plural
> pronoun used in Tal. A resource you can read if this is a new area for you
> is<;!!GqivPVa7Brio!JaofkUbeadB3IBWQsFzcY__klMvORUs_ZWbM8lQU24c1w03RKdOTXLirUVz44ZUIIg$>
> We discussed the following options:
>    1. no change
>    2. add it in 1 or 2 places in the main persona
>    3. Tal like to be referred to (pronouns) as Tal/they/them/theirs
>    4. change the persona to remove gender diversity
>    5. use the pronouns as frequently as would be used naturally
> COGA had voted against 5 because of readability and translatability
> challenges and compromised with using the minimal pronouns in option 1.  I
> have created a google document with all of the options at
> Please take a look and weigh in with your thoughts on how to proceed.
> Best regards,
> Rachael
> --
> Rachael Montgomery, PhD
> Director, Accessible Community
> "I will paint this day with laughter;
> I will frame this night in song."
>  - Og Mandino

Laura L. Carlson

Wilco Fiers
Axe-core product owner - Facilitator ACT Task Force - Co-chair ACT-Rules

Received on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 17:54:43 UTC