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%)
    • According to my tests with the Standards-Schmandards Readability Index Calculator, text is not understandable by people with a lower secondary education.
    • Other related problems include the use of jargon.¬† For example, simple explanations could have replaced¬† “hypomania”¬† and “dysthymia” in Types of Bipolar.

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: http://www.bipolarscotland.org.uk/accessibility


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”).