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Re: plain/simple/easy language variant subtag

From: Paul Bohman <paul.bohman@deque.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 11:20:52 -0400
Message-ID: <CA+20umHabV1HcbrwPHgsLNRDL8b9SPqN4ot93Lbnoag-i3ikEw@mail.gmail.com>
To: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Phill and Chaals, with regard to this sentiment: "I agree that  'complex
ideas' are not the problem.  Nor that its a big problem to explain them in
simple language."

I admit that I find that a rather bizarre thing to say.

Maybe it depends on what you mean by "explain." If you simply want to state
something complex in an easy way, there is almost always a way to convey
some parts of a complex idea in a way that it easier to understand, but
that's not the end of the story.

Let's start with the target audience of a three-year-old child, and let's
look a list of complex ideas:

   - Change management theory in large organizations
   - Quantum mechanics
   - Trigonometry
   - The scientific, political, sociological, and ethical considerations of
   planning a multinational team of astronauts/cosmonauts/etc to Mars to build
   a permanent human colony

Can you say something about all of these things in easy terms? Yes. Can you
truly convey the detailed nuances of these topics to a three-year-old? No.
Meaning will be lost. You will simply fail to convey much of the meaning.

Part of the reason that you will fail is because the ideas are complex.

Another reason you will fail is because there is a body of knowledge that a
person must have as background knowledge in order to understand the
concepts. The concepts may in fact be simple to someone who has the
necessary background knowledge, but may be completely incomprehensible to
someone without the necessary background knowledge.

It reminds me of what Carl Sagan once said: "If you want to make an apple
pie from scratch... you must first invent the universe." And he's right, of
course, in the most literal sense.

When explaining any of the things in my list above, for some people, you
could start with the concept. For other people, you have to start by giving
them life experience. Good luck with that.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training, Deque Systems, Inc
703-225-0380, ext.121

On Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 10:41 AM, Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com> wrote:

> I agree that  'complex ideas' are not the problem.  Nor that its a big
> problem to explain them in simple language.
> However, the problem is to be able to identify when the explanation is
> "simple enough", when it is even more simple than the previous explanation
> (e.g. is it simpler?), and the biggest challenge is to do that without a
> human involved.  How can it be objectively tested?  Doesn't human judgment
> naturally introduce bias and subjectivity?
> We can use Chaals' recent explanation as an example:
> Simpler language:
> Explaining complex ideas is difficult. Explaining them with simple
> language is more difficult. But complex ideas can be explained in simple
> language. Thousands of very good teachers do that every day. For most
> people, understanding complicated explanations is hard. Even if
> they can understand the idea that someone is explaining.
> Complex language:
> (alternately: Conceptual integrity failure in interpersonal communication
> is frequently consequent upon inadequate realization vis-a-vis the
> linguistic transmission medium rather than the abstract object inherently
> overtaxing the recipient's cognitive capacity…)
> How can a machine tell that the Simpler example is indeed simpler than the
> complex alternative example?
> We had this debate several year (decade?) ago.  What has changed?
> Back then we could count the number of 3 syllable words, we could count
> the number of uncommon words, we could use Microsoft Word's "Reading Level"
> tool, etc.  Is there now some new standard that can be objectively measured
> by an open algorithm or tool?
> When would our criteria fail to be met?
> What content is exempt ( e.g. an index, a table of content, left nav,
> complimentary info tagged with ARIA region mark-up?  etc.)
> Would lawyers agree to have their content objectively measured?  I love
> the idea of regulating lawyers by the way.
> When is it equally inaccessible to everyone?     Does that concept even
> come into play with cognitive disabilities?
> Is this topic part of the WAI Cognitive Task Force?
> As most new success criteria, it is itself a complex issue to resolve.
> ____________________________________________
> Regards,
> Phill Jenkins,
> IBM Accessibility
Received on Wednesday, 16 September 2015 15:21:40 UTC

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