Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessment: First Attempt, Part 1 of 3

This post describes my first structured attempt to evaluate cognitive Web accessibility.  I expect to learn about related best practices with my Plan to Assess Web Accessibility of 100 Cognitive Disability Organizations.  My working hypothesis is that their Web sites are more likely to implement accessibility features for people with cognitive disabilities than the Web sites of any other organization.

Assessment Tools

Summary of Assessment

My assessment uses a ten-point scale.  I record a point if even one guideline in each of the seven sections of WebAIM’s checklist has been met.  Yet, because I am just starting, I would like to see now how practical it is to find and to evaluate a feature representative of every guideline.

I have thus divided the assessment into three parts.  This blog post is the first.  It covers the checklist sections of:

  • Consistency; and
  • Transformability

In future blog posts, the remaining checklist sections will be assessed:

  • Multi-Modality;
  • Focus and Structure;
  • Readability and Language;
  • Orientation and Error Prevention/Recovery;
  • Assistive Technology Compatibility.

As well, I will record up to three points if the Web site attempts to meet W3C accessibility standards, if it has an accessibility statement, and if it explains how to use accessibility features.

Web Site Description

The Web site of Down’s Syndrome Scotland is the subject of my first review.  I chose it simply because I have noticed many U.K. Web sites make an effort to be usable by and accessible to people with cognitive disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities.  The Web site is bright and cheery. Pages have big photos and colorful elements. The home page is pictured below.

home page with pictures of children and young women with Down's Syndrome

Assessment: Consistency & Transformability

  • Checklist Section: Consistency
    • Guideline: Ensure that navigation is consistent throughout a site
      • On every page, the options of the top menu are the same.  It, the site search box, and the sidebar menu are always in the same place.  The sidebar menu’s options do necessarily change because they are related to each site section’s content.
    • Guideline: Similar interface elements and similar interactions should produce predictably similar results
      • Such elements include “Print this page”, “Email to a friend” and the search box. All produced predictably similar results. I could find no related inconsistencies elsewhere.  One point is recorded.
  • Checklist Section: Transformability
    • Guideline: Support increased text sizes
      • When text size is increased to 200% and to 300%, the text in the content section of the site’s pages looks fine.  Menu-, header- and footer text have an overlapping problem, causing illegibility.
    • Guideline: Ensure images are readable and comprehensible when enlarged
      • Most images are big. All of them and the smaller ones, with the exception of a Scottish Consortium logo, meet this guideline.  One point is recorded.
    • Guideline: Ensure color alone is not used to convey content
      • A red underline in the navigation menu is the only visible site-section indicator. There is no such indicator when styles are disabled.
    • Guideline: Support the disabling of images and/or styles
      • Site-content layout is logical and navigable with images and/or styles disabled.


Two of two possible points are recorded.


  • I tested each guideline on at least three pages with Firefox.  I used Internet Explorer a few times to determine if effects were Firefox-specific.  (None were.)  To take less time, I will likely use Firefox exclusively for subsequent assessments unless a Web site or a feature is incompatible with it.
  • I tested the text-size and the image-enlargement guidelines with the Default Full Zoom Level 4.3 Firefox extension to assure that text sizes and zoom levels were increased to 200% and to 300% precisely.

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