Re: Comments on Draft "Disabilities and Barriers" subpage

Shawn, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft material at This is great stuff!

As you suggested, I'm copying this reply to

Here are a few suggestions, focussing on the material relating to cognitive disabilities.

I'd avoid referring to "mental retardation" altogether, even for historical reasons. This term is a huge concern for many self advocates.

Many users with cognitive disabilities have difficulty reading, and access to text to speech conversion with appropriate controls for sighted users (different from those for blind users) can be a big help. The definition of "reading assistants" might be broadened to include this. (This is especially relevant for many users with dyslexia, but isn't limited to them.)

Many users with cognitive disabilities have limited vocabulary, so content that uses unusual words unnecessarily is a barrier. Where unusual vocabulary can't be avoided, access to a glossary should be provided. Note that access to a general source of definitions, not specific to a site, isn't helpful when words are used in a special sense, which often happens.

Many users who have difficulty reading have even more difficulty skimming, that is, rapidly scanning a page to identify relevant content or controls. This means that the ability to view a page from which infrequently needed content has been suppressed is especially important. This need takes in features mentioned under "lexical and grammar tools", and in the section "content can be presented in different ways". But the issues include functionality and controls, as well as "content" that is simply text. That is, some users will benefit if they can get a view of a page that includes commonly used functions but not rarely used ones. 

The hierarchical relationship between "learning disabilities" and "perceptual disabilities", and the term "perceptual disabilities" itself, won't be familiar to all readers. In particular it might be useful to mention dyslexia as an example of a perceptual disability in the section on learning disabilities, so that people looking for it under learning disabilities will be sent to the right section.

In "Content and functionality is accessible by keyboard", the sentence, "Many people with disabilities do not use the mouse or rely on alternative input devices..." is ambiguous... adding "may" after the "or" might help.

Thanks again, Clayton
On Jul 29, 2010, at 1:26 PM, Shawn Henry wrote:

> Hi Clayton,
> I hope you are well!
> WAI has drafted a resource to help web developers and others understand how people with disabilities use the web. As you know, one of the more difficult issues is how to cover what is sometimes broadly called cognitive disabilities.
> Would you be able to take a look at the draft page at and let us know what you think?
> Ideally, please send comments to so that they are logged for reference. However, if you don't want to send your comments to a public log, feel free to send them to both:
> (the document's editor)
> (which is only visible to W3C staff)
> All the best,
> ~Shawn
> -----
> Shawn Lawton Henry
> W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
> e-mail:
> phone: +1.617.395.7664
> about:

Clayton Lewis
Professor of Computer Science
Scientist in Residence, Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities
University of Colorado

Received on Monday, 9 August 2010 20:19:19 UTC