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Re: [K12OSN] Open Office



On Sat, 2007-06-09 at 17:40 -0400, Accessys smart net wrote:
> On Sat, 9 Jun 2007, Todd O'Bryan wrote:
> 
> > Actually, students in Kentucky have to submit writing portfolios as part
> > of the state accountability system. Part of that includes audience and
> > writing domain awareness. If a student were to submit a feature article
> > without included photos in a typewriter font or a lab report without
> > included charts and graphs, they would be marked down according to the
> > rubric.
> 
> what do children who cannot afford computers or don't have the ability to
> include such things, why would a blind child be marked down for not
> submitting photos that are unusable by that child. (you do mainstream such
> children do you not??)
> 
All students should have access to computers during school hours to
complete the portfolio and should be able to make their pieces look
appropriate. At least that's what the people who make the policies
think.

As to whether a blind child would be marked down for not including
pictures--possibly yes. The point here is audience awareness. Blind
journalists who write editorials don't have to include pictures--the
audience doesn't expect them. But if a blind person were to write an
article for National Geographic or the fluff section of the newspaper,
then s/he would have to realize that the audience would expect pictures
there. Obviously, s/he would work with a colleague who could provide
input about layout and picture choice, but the Kentucky standards would
expect even blind students to know that it would be very strange (and in
some sense a violation of publishing standards) to *not* include a
picture of someone if one were writing a feature article about him/her.
It doesn't come up as part of accountability, but we'd similarly expect
a deaf student to know that it's appropriate to put a musical background
in a video presentation. Again, they shouldn't be expected to pick
appropriate music, but should realize that their audience will expect
it.

In terms of how this plays out in actual schools, most blind kids aren't
mainstreamed, as far as I know. There's just too much content specific
to their needs and too few people expert in it. The Kentucky School for
the Blind is in town and I was in a class with a woman who teaches
there. They have a lot of equipment that we don't have--calculators that
speak answers and screen readers for kids who can read very magnified
text, to name two. They spend a lot of time teaching their students to
read Braille and to use canes and seeing-eye dogs--content that sighted
children don't learn.

On the other hand, Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids *are* usually
mainstreamed, often with an interpreter. The language barrier gets
treated as less problematic than retooling the school for students
without visual access to content. I don't know whether that's right or
wrong, but it's what I see. In fact, teacher education classes focus so
much on visual packaging of content through graphical organizers of
several sorts and even non-verbal methods of classroom management, that
I've wondered myself how I would ever teach my Computer Science class if
I had a blind student. I'd give it my best shot, but from UML diagrams
to syntax coloring to visualizing the functioning of algorithms, I would
have to rethink a great deal of what I teach to make it accessible to
students who can't see.

> > Plain text just doesn't cut it anymore. If PDF isn't accessible, then we
> > need to come up with something that will allow a reasonable amount of
> > presentation in addition to content.
> 
> http://www.W3C.org/WAI
> 
> should give you more information than you ever wanted to know
> 
> personally I hate photos/graphics etc just for the sake of eyecandy, if it
> doesn't add to the knowledge base it is just eyecandy or regurgitated
> amazement.!!
> 

I would tend to agree with this statement as a matter of personal taste.
But I can't tell you how many students actually learn better as a result
of what should, by any objective test, be completely superfluous.
Multi-colored presentations are more memorable than black and white.
Animations stick in students' heads where diagrams at each stage don't.
Cute little sound effects trigger comprehension where the exact same
content without such aesthetic niceties doesn't. It shouldn't be so, but
it is. Perhaps that's why the advertising industry consumes such a big
chunk of the GDP.

As to what format to use, the way I understand accessibility is that
content has to be available in formats that are accessible to
differently-abled users. If I'm writing a website and I only make my
content available in PDF, the site's not accessible. If, however, I make
it available in both PDF and XHTML (using all of XHTML's accessibility
features as appropriate), then I've met the requirements. I guess what
we need is some kind of content model that can include content that's
organized in a way that's convenient for text readers but that can also
include formatting information for visual presentation. XHTML/CSS is a
good choice on the web, but it's horrible for paper-based
presentation--thus, I guess, the popularity of PDF.

Todd


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