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Community hub for Wadsworth clients

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Sat, 02 Mar 2002 12:13:22 -0500
Message-Id: <Version.32.20020302095010.01bfa4d0@pop.iamdigex.net>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: "John Parkin" <jbp@globalnet.co.uk>
At 11:49 AM 2002-02-28 , Paul Davis wrote:
>Interesting conundrum here, I have been approached by Wandsworth social
>services to produce a website for people with severe learning disabilities
>(as opposed to cognitive ones), most of which it seems at first glance
>involves the use of images and sounds instead of words, I suppose the
>position could be taken that the website would only be of interest to the
>targeted group in question and as such, is it then a required need to be
>accessible in the normally accepted terms?

Yes, in your architecture and tecnology you should be looking to use generic 'universal' methods to the maximum extent possible.

But you can still make your first goal some mode of operation that deals with just your service and your clients, on a subscription basis.  In the sense that if you can't reach that goal, you just won't do it.  If they aren't going to turn it on or tune it in, there's no point building the thing.  And that anchor may be an "inside" thing.

The first thing to identify is the service to be enabled, described in the language the clients would use to describe why they would use it again.  Then one can progress to worrying implementation such as the pictograph vs. phonemail medium that will pass through the system.  I haven't heard enough to know that a website is what you need, never mind how to realise such a website.

You need to meet some need in the clients' lives that is not being met today.  That may revolve around socializing with their peer clients that they wouldn't be able to chat with without the server.  But as soon as you have them engaged, you need to be looking at things like:  how do the clients communicate with the rest of the world?  This includes the Wadsworth as an institution, web grocers, news, sports and weather, people with other disabilies and the like.

Let me put the "other disabilities" in a parable.

When I returned to the U.S. from two years living abroad, I discovered that there was a bond of understanding among people who had lived outside their native cultures that those who had not had this experience did not share.  Call it the expatriate shibboleth.  It did not matter if the other person was from another land and living in the U.S. or from the U.S. and had lived (not just visited) elsewhere.  It was a surprise to me that it didn't matter where else they had lived.  Africa, Poland or China, it was the same difference.  It marked someone else's ability to resonate with my life experience, separating them from the perpetual homebodies.

I suspect that among people with disabilities there is something of the same effect.  Although people that share the same disability are the easiest to relate to as peers, just the general cussedness of life dealing with a world that by an large ignores your needs is a common experience that marks a person and colors how we perceive one another as an "us" or a "them."

So even if precipitating social communication within the circle of the subscribed clients is the first goal, it can't be the only goal.  If that works, you want to make your service an engine that helps them get on with real life in the real world, too.

If they are "LD but not CD" they probably have a rich range of services on their shopping list.  What is it that the conventional mode of delivery cuts them off from?  Does TV work for them?  If it does, have you considered using WebTV as your client?  Or if it doesn't, do you need to be thinking of how you are going to work a CNN or BBC feed through your site?

You need an operational concept for the requirement on capabilities of the service, first.  This can be in usage scenarios.  Then as you sketch your technical architecture you should review it with people with broader Web and disability access backgrounds to see where you can base your techniques on stuff that is both adaptable and cheap (available as a commodity or at least a product or service already on the market).

Make each biggie that you partner with a sponsor.  Look at the role of AT&T in Freedom Box.

This is a risky, researchy topic.  We need to know more about two things:
- what operational user scenarios that Wadsworth wants to enable
[got one: exchange messages among subscribers]
"A website" covers a multitude of sins.  What are you really trying to achieve, here?
- what computer-hosted interfaces the target clients use now with success
[are these AAC device users?   AutoCAD?  Excel?  Draw/Paint?  Super Mario Brothers?  Myst/Doom?  What mode(s) of user interaction are candidates for binding into your system?]

>Nearly all accessible websites take for granted that:
>1. The surfer is naturally English speaking.
>2. They can read.
>This is often inaccessible to these particular groups.
>Suppose it was a requirement that a series of images could be used to convey
>a message which could then be cut and pasted onto a server generated and
>based email so that individuals could then effectively email each other with
>their own messages. It would make life easier if Java applets and rotating
>gifs could be used, but this comes with it's own set of difficulties. Where
>does the line get drawn accessibility wise, or do you just ignore the line
>altogether and go for it?

This hints that the primary objective of the site is community building by facilitating socializing through electronic communication.  Instant Messaging with Picons and Bliss, so to speak.  Picons being personal icons and Bliss being an ideographic language.  You may be able to do something that will win devoted users with an all-email solution and never touch the Web.

If this is the anchor service, one approach is that of creating a shared virtual world.  Technologies to review are MOO and Virtual Classroom and X3D if you have the resources to roll your own world.

I heard a briefing at a RESNA conference a year or two back on a pilot study that was run in a children's ward in a hospital.  These children were dialysis patients without other particular functional impairments.  But they were confined to bed in hospital.  They were socially deprived of peer contact just as they were emotionally stressed and in heightened need of social contact to help them through the emotional stresses.  The working medium had scene building components the kids could pick and place to compose a personal spot in the shared virtual world.  This was art therapy with a social turn because there was community view of one another's constructions etc.  Social norms including limits on artistic expression were worked out through dialog in the community among the child patients with professional team facilitation.

Partly I am challenged by your characterization of the target group as "with severe learning disabilities but not cognitively impaired."  My knowledge of the roadmap through this terra incognita is so weak that this does not evoke an image of what they _can do_.

Now: email and offline processing may be a key piece of what you wish to do.  But this involves tradeoffs with respect to leaving one another messages on the server a_la BBS systems vs. exchanging email.  In the latter case you will probably be sending MIME messages bearing attachments that are objects from some toolspace [I've been warned that 'ontology' is off-putting] that is friendly to their abilities.  Much after the fashion of the much-hated worm HTML mailgrams that attempt to launch the script that wipes your disk.  How good are your clients going to be a screening out rogue messages?  You may need to put this traffic on a security platform to make the neighborhood safe enough.

It sounds as though you are a possible candidate to be exploring a 'portal' solution as are Carlos Velasco and his team at the Fraunhofer Institute.  You should be aware of the two-tier model where the front tier is webservers that uses technology that the clients will typically have anyway (the web browser, of some definition) and this front tier talks with a back-office tier for wholesale services.  The communication between the front tier and back tier is conducted in the 'web services' pattern of practice.  The point is that the back-office services are relatively well posed as logic engines, defined by schemas and business rules.  

You are quite likely a candidate for web services communication with the back-office services anyway.  You may well wish to create a peculiar custom client, either built on retail web protocols for communication, or going straight to SOAP for the communication.

[policy and politics] Yes, if this is a group for which the 'universal' recipes of today simply do not make the service you want to offer workable, go for a targeted solution.  If you follow the "universal design" process macro you may well find that there are common core technologies that will make your job easier and make what you produce support interworking between the particular clients you optimized this view for and others, with other disabilies and with none.  At which point we are getting to where we are delivering on the W3C mission.


>Any opinions please?
>Paul Davis
>-----Original Message-----
>From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
>Behalf Of Charles McCathieNevile
>Sent: 26 February 2002 13:17
>To: goliver@accease.com
>Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
>Subject: Re: People with cognitive disabilities as a group
>As a group, people with cognitive disabilities are diverse - more so than
>people with Visual disabilities (who are a diverse group) and more like
>people with motor disabilities (who are a very diverse group).
>I think that trying to find a single solution that suits all of these people
>really involves finding multiple solutions that each provide for some
>specific problems, and then unifying these solutions (which includes working
>out how to deal with cases where there are apparently conflicting
>needs - for
>example some people need not to rely on images, others need not to rely on
>text. HTML provides for this to some extent with its ability to include both
>images and text as equivalent forms of the same information).
Received on Saturday, 2 March 2002 12:13:29 UTC

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