W3C & OGC Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility

Maps for the Web LogoOn September 28, 2020, I presented at Maps for the Web. This was a workshop series created and hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

Workshops’ Overall Goals

Bring together experts in:

  • geographic standards and Web map data services,
  • Web mapping client tools and applications, and
  • Web platform standards and browser development

to explore the potential of maps for the Web.

Major Areas of Focus

  • improving the usability and accessibility of maps
  • encouraging the design of map-based experiences, and
  • building easier ways for researchers to share content.

I served as a panelist with fellow W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group members David Fazio, and John Kirkwood. Our workshop was Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility (COGA).

Web Maps for COGA Background Info


W3C Logo

20 Sites Assessed For Cognitive Web Accessibility

This post summarizes the results from my assessments of the Web sites of 20 organizations that serve people with cognitive disabilities. It is my plan to perform 100 such cognitive Web accessibility assessments. The Clear Helper site has detailed information and results.

The assessments have 10 criteria. Seven are based upon WebAIM’s latest Cognitive Web Accessibility Checklist. Three are intended to help evaluate general Web site accessibility.

The following are the assessment criteria and the percentages of the sites that met them. The included links go to pages that provide details and results for the guidelines comprising the assessment criteria.

Content Criteria

Design Criteria

Design-Related Criteria


Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: Accessibility Paradox

Alzheimer's Foundation of America home page Detailed results from my cognitive Web accessibility assessment of The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America revealed an apparent, related effort on its content.  Paradoxically, it seemed there was little on the accessibility of its design.


Textual content is crafted to be readable. For instance, a lot of technical language is used but is followed by attempts at simple explanations. Also of note is that this site conforms to every aspect of readability criteria: line length and height; text spacing and size, etc..

Textual content is also designed so site visitors’ attention is focused on it. White space is used well. Distractions are avoided. Content is written in visual chunks and using lists. The home page is an exception to these successes.


The site met only 25% of design criteria. Indications that little attention is paid to accessibility guidelines are 49 related errors on the home page (as reported by WebAIM’s WAVE). Alternative text for images, which is a basic sign that site designers are aware of accessibility, is generally absent. Misspellings and typographical errors make its rare use problematic.


It is reasonable to assume a significant portion of the site’s visitors are seniors. Those who do not have Alzheimer’s Disease may have cognitive deficits, as happens to all of us as we age. The site’s content creators apparently recognize this. In my opinion, their efforts do not make up for the site’s accessibility design failures.


Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments: Detailed Results By Site

I published an index of detailed results, by site, of my cognitive Web accessibility assessments.

For each Web site, the detailed-results page displays:

  • the applicable guidelines the site met or did not meet;
  • the numbers of points scored by sections (Content, Design and Design-Related); and
  • the site’s assessment score and conclusion (accessible or inaccessible).

Notes: This post is part of a continuing series on Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments. I have also published an index of aggregate results.

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: 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”).


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.

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.

Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments: 2 UK Sites With Top Scores

I performed cognitive Web accessibility assessments on five more sites.  Two of them, both of organizations located in the United Kingdom, received all possible points.  The results for the rest were varied.

Assessed Sites and Scores

View detailed results, assessment criteria and methodology.

Site Highlights

People First

The People First site features a large site-navigation menu (pictured below). For menu options, there are contextually-relevant icons, which are also used throughout the site.

People First Site Navigation Menu


The Mencap site incorporates many captioned videos (example pictured below) as an alternative to text content, and relevant images to augment it.  The site’s My Life section is specifically designed for constituents, with plain language; simple navigation, and lots of images and videos.

Man pictured with a quote, "We work in partnership with the  parents".


Though the Web sites of Mencap and People First have minor problems, it is apparent the two organizations expended great effort to make them accessible to their constituencies.  I offer my congratulations.

Note: This post is part of a series on cognitive Web accessibility assessments.

Draft Database of Results from Cognitive Web Accessibility Assessments

I now have a database of results from my assessments of cognitive Web accessibility.  It is a work in progress.

I am displaying the database data on The Clear Helper Web site.  Because, to date, I have assessed only 2 of my planned 100 Web sites, few data are presented.  Yet it seems a good idea to start the database development and the data presentation now, partly in hope of soliciting feedback from followers of this project.

The assessments home page references two pages that display the same database data differently.  Its main purpose is to describe the assessment criteria and methodology.  I will use it to record any related changes I make as a result of what I learn from performing subsequent assessments.

Via table and pie chart, the first page shows Results By Numbers of Web Sites that meet the assessment criteria.

The second page shows summaries of Results By Web Site.  Each has the criteria met, the number of points recorded, and the conclusion. Seven of the criteria are based upon the sections of WebAIM’s Cognitive Web Accessibility Checklist.

A future page will show results by the guidelines that form the checklist’s sections.  It might be interesting to create a page of results by country.  It may be, for example, that cognitive-disability organizations in the countries of the U.K. are more likely than those in other countries to make their Web sites accessible to their constituencies.

I would like feedback.  If you have suggestions for how I can improve my related efforts, or for other ways to display the results, please post a comment or contact me.