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RE: tired of this thread - Work to do

From: Chuck Hitchcock <chitchcock@cast.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 22:45:48 -0400
To: "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>, <love26@gorge.net>
Cc: <Lovey@aol.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBBBKAJEGLHENOJJCLGHCEJJDNAA.chitchcock@cast.org>
>Kynn wrote: "At the very least, we'd like to see a "before" picture of an
inaccessible page, and then an "after" picture that shows exactly what changes
were necessary (and why) to improve the accessibility.  In all this
discussion, no concrete examples such as that have been provided.  Is it too
much to ask?"

Well, it is a lot to ask today.

This is work that I have been hoping to get to for the past year but have yet
to get beyond the initial proposal writing stage.  It is clearly not
indifference -  just too many competing projects and interests.  We want to
move beyond basic sensory and physical accessibility to the more difficult
cognitive issues but it is very hard work.  Even textbook publishers and
educational software publishers have made only limited progress in this area
and they need to reach a very wide audience.  I hope to be working on "Mr.
Chips" within the next six months or so.  The work reaches beyond
accessibility to improved learning opportunities for the widest possible

Mr. Chips will provide a scaffold to support web page and site authors who
wish to create both accessible and educational internet based learning
experiences for children, teens and adults.  Mr. Chips is essentially a
concept that encompasses a variety of critical steps leading to the
development of a tool that will enhance web-based learning.  In the end, Mr.
Chips will be the tool, not the concept. Mr. Chips will move well beyond web
accessibility, currently assessed by Bobby, and help make the Web a better
place for learning.  Mr. Chips will be a software program that assumes that
the web needs to be more than informational and will address:

1. purpose and level of the content and/or activities and abilities of the
intended audience (readability is just a first step here),
2. choice of pedagogy for intended purpose,
3. assumptions about the defined or expressed needs of the intended users,
4. that content is provided in multiple media for purposes of both
accessibility and differing learning styles,
5. nature and appropriateness of interactions with the content,
6. opportunity for expression,
7. engagement of the learner in activities appropriate to his or her
background and interests,
8. provisions for measurement of progress and self assessment, and,
9. critical layout and navigation barriers for learners with organizational
and physical challenges.

Of course this just scratches the surface and will involve many years of work
on standards and techniques.  It will also require predictable methods for
serving appropriate meta-tagged objects from a database using XML and CSS so
that pages can be customized on the fly using information provided by user
profiles and previous interactions with the content.  All this while
protecting privacy of course.

The work will be difficult and it is likely to take many years to convince
publishers and site authors to provide content suitable for meeting these
needs.  Like most people, I have too much on my plate to start on this right
away but I would like to find out if others are interested in thinking about
this is a way that extends beyond basic access.

We will also need more controls built into browsers.  I have been working with
a small team at CAST using the IE5 component and SAPI4 to develop a "talking
browser with synchronized highlighting" that we hope will handle the structure
of complex web pages.  We are quite far along and hope to release a version
this summer to schools.  It is already being used in two Federal Department of
Education research grants.  It's for those with reading difficulties who need
to have the text highlighted as it is spoken.

We also have to build in some form of resistance so that learners will
continue to develop literacy skills and not use text-to-speech as a crutch
forever. Rather than have to build a shell around IE5, I would love to see
these controls built right into IE and Navigator.  That me be too much to ask.

Nuff for now,

Chuck Hitchcock, Director
Universal Design Lab (UDL)and
Product Development,
CAST, Inc.,
39 Cross Street, Peabody, MA 01960
Voice 978 531-8555
TTY 978 531-3110
Fax 978 531-0192
Received on Thursday, 17 June 1999 22:45:18 UTC

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