Clayton Lewis

Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities
University of Colorado

CHI 2010 workshop: Position statement for Clayton Lewis

My background and interest in the Workshop

My interest in the Workshop comes from my work for the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, where my role is to promote research on technology that will increase independence and improve the quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities. 

As the Web becomes ever more crucial to people's lives, the comprehensibility of text that is used in Web sites has become a pressing issue. Efforts to promote increased comprehensibility, for example in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), have been seriously hampered by the lack of easily operationalizable criteria for designers. In fact, the recent revisions to the WCAG guidelines, which stressed operationalizability, actually weakened the guidance offered in this respect.

The reason why I am attending

In attending the workshop I am hoping that discussion among the participants may lead to new ideas for dealing with this problem. Advances will be important, not only through the improvement of guidelines and associated regulation, but also through more effective work by designers, apart from the guidelines. I have been charged with developing supplementary materials on meeting the needs of users with cognitive, language, and learning impairments, to accompany the WCAG guidlelines, and results from the workshop will be very helpful in that effort.

I also look forward to sharing with the participants the ideas from a new project, in collaboration with Tom Landauer and Kirill Kireyev of Pearson Knowledge Technologies, on a new approach to vocabulary development. The work is based on the use of Latent Semantic Analysis to evaluate users' vocabulary more precisely than previously practical, and to automatically create training materials that can accelerate the mastery of job-critical vocabulary. Some of the ideas in this work are more generally applicable to text comprehension.

Critical issues to be discussed

1. Comprehensibility of text

What new ideas do we have to improve guidelines, the associated regulations, and most importantly the actual work done by designers to improve the comprehensibility of text, with particular focus on meeting the needs of users with cognitive, language, and learning impairments? 

2. To what extent should we concentrate on the users or the text?

My current work grew out of earlier efforts to transform text so as to reduce the vocabulary used; we believe vocabulary enhancement for users may actually be a more practical approach in some situations than vocabuary restriction in text.