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Knowledge domain accessibility #9

michael-n-cooper opened this issue Oct 1, 2018 · 1 comment


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commented Oct 1, 2018


Support for the presentation of, and interaction with knowledge domain content on the web is uneven at best. We note renewed activity in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ameliorate this situation in certain knowledge domains and inquire after generalized approaches which might be codified to enable knowledge domain experts to provide more robust support in their area of expertise. We focus specifically on providing accessibility support across knowledge domains that can enable and empower persons with disabilities in their education and professional relationships.

Problem Description

Accessibility to text-based web content and to interactive desktop-type widgets, such as checkboxes, menus, and sliders, has been made quite robust and reliable for persons living with sensory and motor disabilities. We are making progress extending support for persons with cognitive and learning disabilities.

Recent standardization work has begun providing accessibility support for graphically expressed knowledge through SVG.

Many intellectual disciplines, however, routinely express knowledge and facilitate discourse utilizing knowledge domain specific symbology. Mathematics is expressed and interacted with symbols and semantic constructs radically different from those used in music scoring, both of which differ markedly from linear textual presentation, even where semantic textual structures have also been made accessible.

Examples of knowledge domain symbologies include, but are not limited to:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Linguistics & Philology
  • Economics
  • Music Scoring

Additionally, there are common practices even in textual content not well supported for accessibility for users who rely on, or significantly benefit from accurate synthetic text to speech (TTS) content pronunciation. Examples here include:

  • The study of history where publications routinely employ foreign language words, phrases, and entire paragraphs in line.
  • The acquisition of foreign language skills
  • Interlinear glosses such as in the study of sacred and ancient texts where each ancient word is often "hyperlinked" to standard dictionary resources.

NOTE: The term "hyperlink" is set off in quotations because the common practice predates hypertext technology, and is commonly rendered in print through defined symbols for "cross referencing."

Toward Solutions

  • We cannot expect assistive technology vendors to solve these problems because the problems are largely unique knowledge domain by knowledge domain, and good solutions will require expertise with that knowledge domain's symbology and functional semantics.
  • Improved presentation must also lead to support for robust interactivity. It must be possible for persons with disabilities to interact with semantic elements of knowledge domain symbology, e.g. illustrate a mathematical proof step by step.
  • We need to look for common traits across multiple knowledge domains, e.g. We likely need to denote the use of a specific knowledge domain symbology across some span of content embedded within standard web page constructs.
  • We need to be on the lookout for particular widget types used by certain knowledge domains for which we lack accessibility support.
  • We need to be on the lookout for weaknesses in available markup to sufficiently express and interact with specific knowledge domain content.
  • We may need normative specifications for declaring in metadata what symbologies are utilized in a given individual publication. It should not be necessary to parse an entire publication to discover which symbology systems have been employed.
  • We will likely want best practices authoring guidance. It is highly likely that individual publications will include spans of content from distinct multiple knowledge domains.
  • We will likely require defined mechanisms for conveying correct terminology to accessibility APIs, as well as defined mechanisms for insuring content is correctly pronounced by TTS.

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commented Oct 10, 2018

Indeed we need a generalized method to represent a wide range of domain specific information. Persons with dyslexia and other cognative disabilities will need the presentation highlighted and spoken. Persons with low vision will need the information enlarged, highlighted and spoken. Persons who are blind will want to hear the content and have it presented on their refreshable braille device. The navigation of each item is essential. I have heard a recording of a person reading a math expression, and it goes in one ear and out the other. I am blind and need to navigate from item to item to understand what is being presented. Having a generalized way to do this that meets everybody's needs would be wonderful. Math is a great example of the problem. However the method for authoring and the method for reading the material will probably be different, we should also consider the authoring side of this issue.

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