Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments: Significant Scoring Revision

I have fundamentally revised the scoring of my cognitive Web accessibility assessments. The impetus was my troubling assessment of the Web site for Bipolar Scotland. It achieved a good score, but I judged it to be inaccessible to people with cognitive disabilities.

Scoring System

My 10-point assessments are based upon WebAIM’s Cognitive Web Accessibility Checklist. Three of its sections relate to site content and four to site design. Each section is an assessment criterion. I record one point for each of those that are met, plus a possible point for each of three simple design-related criteria I added to the assessments.

Scoring System Problems

Until now, I had not considered a couple aspects of my scoring system.

  • The design criteria outnumber the content criteria. This meant I was judging sites to be accessible that, like Bipolar Scotland’s, were strong in design but had content accessibility problems. This was not good practice.
  • Because meeting each criterion means one point, my simple design-related criteria had the same significance as the complex, detailed design criteria of WebAIM’s checklist. They should not have.

Scoring System Revision

Site content should have significantly-greater impact on my assessments; the simple design-related criteria should have less. To accomplish this, I now do not consider any site accessible unless, at a minimum, it meets all three content criteria and all four design criteria of WebAIM’s checklist. Any points recorded for the simple design-related criteria improve the total assessment score.

New Site Scoring System, By Points:

  • minimum for “accessible” = 3 content + 4 design
  • total score = those 7 + up to 3 simple design-related


Web Site Designed For People With Cognitive Disabilities But Inaccessible To Them

I assessed the Web site of Bipolar Scotland. It was designed for people with cognitive disabilities. Summary assessment results show the site met all seven design-related criteria, but not the three content criteria. In my judgment, a site with significant content-accessibility problems can not be considered accessible to people with cognitive disabilities.

The bullets below list the sections of WebAIM’s Cognitive Web Accessibility Checklist. Each section is an assessment criterion. Each is considered met if at least 75% of its applicable guidelines are implemented on the Web site.

Site Design Strengths

  • Consistency (100%)
  • Transformability (75%)
  • Orientation and Error Prevention/Recovery (75%)
  • Assistive Technology Compatibility (86%)

The site also attempts to meet W3C accessibility guidelines, has an accessibility statement, and explains at least one accessibility feature (the font size changer).

Site Content Problems

  • Multi-modality (0%)
    • Text is not offered in video- or audio alternatives.
    • With few exceptions, contextually-relevant images are not used, and icons/graphics are not paired with text.
  • Focus and Structure (67%)
    • Design does not focus attention on page-body content.
    • On every page there is a large, distracting element (a constantly-changing image inside an Amazon widget).
  • Readability and Language (50%)

Statement Site Was Designed For People With Cognitive Disabilities

Bipolar Scotland’s accessibility statement, in part, says:

In web accessibility terms, bipolar disorder falls under the category of cognitive/intellectual disabilities, one of the five needs that web accessibility aims to address. We tend to think of web accessibility as ways to help blind or deaf users view the web, but people with cognitive disabilities have particular needs involving memory, comprehension, attention span, and logic skills. Creating a site for people with bipolar disorder, who may or may not be experiencing those issues on any given day, poses a particular challenge: we are designing to accomodate the restrictions within the brain, not the body.

Retrieved from:


I agree with that statement. The one exception I take is with its last line. I think the reverse is true: the site’s design is good for physical disabilities (“the body”) but its content is not for cognitive disabilities (“restrictions within the brain”).


Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments: Musings About Validity

Results of my cognitive Web accessibility assessments, for the 12 sites I have evaluated to date, show an average score of 5 out of 10 points.  That datum is the launch point for this post, in which I consider the assessments’ consistency, accuracy, and related implications.

I hope the average score improves as I increase the sample size of assessed sites, but it will be unlikely if I encounter more like that of The International Dyslexia Association.  It is the first Web site for which no points were scored.

I think the zero-point score is an accurate portrayal of the site’s accessibility.  Comparing it to the two sites that scored all points and to the other assessed sites indicates to me my assessment system is internally consistent.  It is obvious, for example, that the top scorers are much more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities than those sites with five points or fewer.

I suspect the top scores were achieved because the two sites were designed for people with intellectual disabilities and because my assessments are for the broader, perhaps-more-capable group of people with cognitive disabilities.

Given my experiences observing people with intellectual disabilities navigate Web sites, I am concerned even the efforts of the top-scoring sites may not mean they are truly relatively-accessible.  I don’t know how my assessments could better judge such sites, but that is my main interest.

Extensive testing by people with intellectual disabilities may be a good indicator of accessibility.  However, there is such a range of abilities within the population that I am unsure any Web site could be accessible to a significant portion of them. This may mean in practice I must produce criteria for minimum abilities needed and try to make the future Clear Helper site accessible to people who meet them.

Note: This post is part of a continuing series on Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments.

Free Readability Tool for iPhone & Desktop Web Browsers

TidyRead, similar to the other such tools I have described, is a free bookmarklet that strips the clutter from Web pages and otherwise makes them easier to read.  Unlike them, it works on the iPhone and the iPod Touch.  It also works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer.

Configuration Options

While TidyRead does not have as many configuration options as those offered by Readability and Readable, it does offer them on demand.  With the latter two tools, users configure how they want the main content of Web pages to appear, and then they add the bookmarklet to their Web browsers.  TidyRead has no pre-configuration.  After its bookmarklet is installed, a click to it presents the toolbar, shown below, at the top of each page it displays.  It adjusts the presentation of content as options are selected.

toolbar with 4 buttons for changing page background color, 4 for text size and 3 for page width

The toolbar has buttons to change background color, font size and margin width.  Its “More” menu includes settings to change the font family and the text alignment.

Error Handling

TidyRead does not have the great feature Readable has, which enables users to select the content they want to display.  If TidyRead can not determine the main content of a page, it displays the error, “This page doesn’t look like an article, and TidyRead couldn’t extract”.

iPhone & iPod Touch

TidyRead can be installed on the iPhone and the iPod Touch by syncing Firefox- or Safari bookmarks with iTunes.  Alternatively, there are step-by-step installation instructions.

Relevancy To Clear Helper Project

The reason I am investigating these readability tools is that they could be quite useful to people with cognitive disabilities who are distracted by extraneous content on all Web sites.  Maybe, in addition to offering easy- and standard versions of the future Clear Helper Web site, I could offer on it one of these tools to install.


Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments: Aggregate Results

I created a set of extensive pages that display aggregate results from my assessments of cognitive Web accessibility.  I also evaluated three more sites.

Results Pages

Seven of the results pages are based upon the sections of WebAIM’s Cognitive Web Accessibility Checklist.  Amongst the pages are aggregated results from assessments of the 44 guidelines that comprise the sections.  The guidelines are defined using WebAIM’s descriptions.

Dynamic Data

In-text results data are are always up-to-date. They are extracted dynamically from a draft database, as are those for the related charts created with Google Chart Tools.

Assessed Web Sites

These are the Web sites I just assessed, and their scores.

View a page of results for all Web sites assessed to date.