The conference was great with accessibility. I was assigned an employee who guided me everywhere and was just wonderful. The conference website was accessible and easy to navigate. When I identified accessibility problems with the mobile app and with SageMaker tools, Amazon personnel immediately assured me they would be fixed.
The sponsorship included participation in the re:MARS VIP Leadership Networking Reception. I was honored to speak with members of Amazon leadership as well as senior researchers from industry and academia.
Make Web text so simple people understand it the first time they read it.
Text comprises the vast majority of Web content. Poor reading comprehension presents significant challenges to many populations, including people with cognitive disabilities, non‐native speakers, and people with low literacy.
Text simplification aims to reduce text complexity while retaining its meaning. Manual text simplification research has been ongoing for decades. Yet no significant effort has been made to automate text simplification except as a preprocessor for natural-language processing tasks such as machine translation and summarization.
In the short term, my partners and I are improving manual text simplification by creating effective, replicable methods for humans to produce it. We use national and international plain language standards. We conduct pilot studies to see if people comprehend our human-curated, simplified Web text better than typical Web text.
In the long term, my partners and I are developing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to produce simple Web text on a mass scale. We are training AI with enormous sets of aligned sentence pairs (typical/simple). We will soon start crowd-sourcing the generation of training data.
Using a website search tool is difficult for people with cognitive disabilities. Finding a relevant result is often thwarted by spelling errors they make, their inability to detect them, or a lack of understanding about how to correct them. Determining which search results are best can be equally difficult.
This post is a synopsis of an approach to circumventing such problems. An example has been implemented on a web site of the German Institute for Human Rights, which is an easy-to-read version of a United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities. A typically-appearing site search incorporates novel spelling-correction features and a simplified presentation of search results.
The site search suggests spelling alternatives only for words that actually appear within the content of the website. Searches for correctly-spelled words that produce no search results would be very frustrating for anyone.
To enable spelling suggestions, a manually-edited index of syntactically-similar words was created. Point values were assigned for similarities in the number of the same letters and the word length. A higher value was given to alternative words with the same first letter, but that was not essential.
To enable search-word spelling correction within the fewest steps possible, the most-similar alternatives are displayed in a word cloud. Of those, typically three, the one with the highest probability of matching the intended search word is presented in a larger text size.
Example Spelling Correction
The German word for “contact” is “kontakt”. Initiating a search with the misspelled word “kontat” produces a word cloud as shown in the following image.
The developers believe the word cloud makes it very easy to recognize the correctly-spelled word, and to select a search word. I don’t know why the first letters are capitalized.
Simplified Search Results
Search results are presented in plain language. Each has a bulleted, succinct summary of information on the linked page; and a contextually-relevant image to aid comprehension.
Example Search Result
The following image shows a single search result translated from German to English using Google Translate.
One aspect of the search results I do not favor is that links to the search-result pages are not underlined. It is only when the cursor is hovered over a link, such as “Contact” in the example search result, that an underline appears.
I am impressed with this approach. This is the first time I have seen search results presented so simply, and with accompanying relevant imagery. I think the spelling-correction features are also worthwhile. In a pilot study of them, 9 of 34 people with learning disabilities could use the search site independently. I expect the developers will continue user testing. With funding and time, I would like to develop a site search using similar techniques.
Reference for all information about spelling-correction:
Each listing is annotated with an edited quote describing the source. At the top of the page, I note the approximately twenty search terms I used. The following blog posts are about the results of this effort.
This post lists the recommendations of eight Web articles I found that opine about a good accessibility statement. I also found three that advocate a site-help page be used instead. All are referenced below.
Do not limit accessibility information to a specific impairment.
Do not assume knowledge visitors may not have, e.g., which browser they use.
Do not claim accessibility features if they are not present.
Relevancy To Current Assessment Plan
I decided to investigate this in preparation for my plan to assess the Web accessibility of 100 cognitive disability organizations. Specifically, I considered not just awarding a point for the presence of an accessibility statement, but for the presence of a good one. To do that, I needed to determine agreed-upon characteristics. Now that I have, I realize it would take too much time to assess the accessibility of the Web sites and whether or not their accessibility statements, if existent, are good.
I have created an index of readability resources related to plain language; measurement tools; guidelines, research; content; symbols; and free- and commercial products and services. At the time of this writing, there are over fifty. I will add more as I find them.
Characteristics Of Readability Listings
All have links to the original sources.
All are annotated with related information, primarily edited quotes from source pages.
The majority are free- and commercial products and services. The rest are research articles.
The publication dates of original studies and articles range from 2001 to 2009 / present.