Posts Tagged ‘Web Accessibility’

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


10 Organizations That Promote Cognitive Web Accessibility


I have created a list of ten organizations that promote Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities. Of those in the list, the following are a few I believe have recently engaged in related activities (guidelines publication, Web site creation, conference presentations, training provision, etc.).

Organizations Recently Active


  • If you know of an organization not included in the list of ten, please create a comment that includes the organization’s Web address.
  • I plan to expand the list of promoters to include individuals. That will be the subject of a future blog post.

10 Reasons Against Cognitive Web Accessibility

  1. There is no generally-accepted, functional definition of “cognitive disability”.
  2. There has been little definitive research on creating Web sites for people with cognitive disabilities.
  3. The vast majority of related guidelines are not part of national- or world sets of Web accessibility standards.
  4. Making sites meet national- or world Web accessibility standards, by itself, is a lot of work.
  5. Because the scope of cognitive disabilities is so broad, the entire variety of needs can not be met even if all related guidelines are followed.
  6. Making Web site content accessible and providing alternate forms of content, which are necessary for people with cognitive disabilities, are typically outside the responsibility of designers.
  7. People with cognitive disabilities may also have physical- or sensory disabilities, which complicates efforts to make Web sites accessible to them.
  8. Web accessibility features (such as text-size enlargers and text-to-speech), which could benefit people with cognitive disabilities, may be a burden on other people, such as screen-reader users.
  9. It may be that no Web site can be made accessible to people with significant memory- and attention deficits, which are common characteristics of cognitive disabilities.
  10. Many people with cognitive disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities or Alzheimer’s Disease, do not have even basic computer skills.

Am I trying to make Web sites accessible to people with cognitive disabilities anyway? Yes, I am.

Cognitive Web Accessibility Guidelines: 2010 & 2009


I have created a growing list of resources, published in the last ten years, related to guidelines for developing Web sites accessible to people with cognitive disabilities.  Listed below are a few such resources published in 2010 and 2009.


For an extensive list, see Cognitive Web Accessibility: Guidelines 2010.


For an extensive list, see Cognitive Web Accessibility: Guidelines 2009.


A great resource for articles about cognitive disabilities and Web accessibility, continually kept up-to-date, is:

University Web Site for People with Learning Disabilities: Starting a Redesign


Today, I visited a local university that has a campus-based program for students with learning disabilities. I am helping to make the program’s Web site more accessible to its students. I met with the program director, two representatives of university Web services, and an adjunct-faculty member responsible for managing site content. We discussed possible cognitive-accessibility features and next steps for the project.

We will focus on content first.

  • Outdated information will be pruned or updated.
  • Text will be rewritten into plain language.
  • Contextually-relevant images will be added, especially photos taken during program activities.
  • After the above tasks are accomplished for one to five pages, they will be evaluated by program students.

We will then revise the site’s design. To do so, we will determine which cognitive-accessibility features we can incorporate using the university’s content management system (CMS). Examples:


  • Other development steps will be outlined in future posts. For example, the My Web My Way idea could be expanded such that site visitors could choose their own mixture of content types.
  • Program students will be included in every step of the site development.

First Thoughts on iPad Potential for People with Intellectual Disabilities


I am intrigued by the iPad’s potential as a computer for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). It could be set up as a Web-access only device, and essential functions could be Web-based. This could be done with computers, but the iPad has at least two distinct advantages.

  • no or low hardware-maintenance
  • minimal management of software updates and installation

These advantages alone are enormous in terms of overall ease-of-use. They are also great for dramatically reducing long-term technical support- and training costs compared to those needed for computers.

I think that to make an iPad truly useful for people with ID, an even simpler interface could be developed for it. I imagine that, upon being turned on, the iPad could present three or four buttons.

One button could start a Web-based e-mail app, such as CogLink that is designed for people with ID, or one with which a user is already familar, such as Yahoo Mail.

A button could start a Web browser app, like Web Trek, which is designed for people with ID.

Another button could start an augmentative-communication app. They exist already. Jane Farrall recently posted a list of iPhone/iPad augmentative communication apps on the Spectronics Blog.

An iPad, with a simple-to use interface similar to those presented by augmentative communication apps, would be a lot less expensive than single purpose AC devices or multi-function computers.

Readers may be interested in these articles:

Note: For the purpose of exploring the iPad’s potential for people with intellectual / cognitive disabilities, one was generously provided to me by the project for which I work, New England INDEX at the Shriver Center, part of The University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Conferences Related to Technology, Web Accessibility and Cognitive Disabilities


Two upcoming- and two recent conferences are listed below along with their related topics and presenters.

Upcoming Conferences

All Together Now: The Power of Partnerships In Cognitive Disability & Technology

  • October 21, 2010 – Westminster, Colorado, U.S.
  • Forty Years after PARC v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Is there a right to technology access? – Gilhool, Thomas
  • A Partnership for Technology to Improve Quality of Life – Pietrangelo, Renee
  • Accessible TeleMEd and eHealth Strategies for People with Cognitive Disabilities – O’Hara, David
  • Technologies to Improve Quality of Life for People with Cognitive Disabilities – Kautz, Henry
  • Developing an Accessible National Information Infrastructure for People with Cognitive Disabilities – Coleman, Bill

Web Accessibility London 2010 Unconference

  • September 21, 2010 – London, England
    • “The unconference will have a motor impairment theme … ” but “… will also consider cognitive impairments and the wider-disability population.”

Recent Conferences

12th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs

  • July 14 to 16, 2010 – Vienna, Austria
  • Track IV, Session C: People with Specific Learning and Cognitive Problems: ICT, AT and HCI
    • Developing a Multimedia Environment to Aid in Vocalization for People on the Autism Spectrum: A User-Centered Design Approach – Al-Wabil, Areej
    • EasyICT: a Framework for Measuring ICT -Skills of People with Cognitive Disabilities – Dekelver, Jan
    • Involving users in the design of ICT aimed to improve education, work, and leisure for users with intellectual disabilities – Gutiérrez y Restrepo, Emmanuelle
    • Methodological Considerations for Involving SpLD Practitioners in the Design of Interactive Learning Systems  – Karim, Latifa
    • PDA software aimed at improving workplace adaptation for people with cognitive disabilities  – Ferreras, Alberto
    • The Performance of Mouse Proficiency for Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities – Wu, Ting-Fang
    • Towards an Interactive Screening Program for Developmental Dyslexia: Eye Movement Analysis in Reading Arabic Texts – Al-Wabil, Areej
    • When Words Fall Short: Helping People with Aphasia to Express – Al Mahmud, Abdullah
  • Track IV, Session D: Easy – to – Web
    • Adaptive Reading: A Design of Reading Browser with Dynamic Alternative Text Multimedia Dictionaries for the Text Reading Difficulty Readers – Chu, Chi Nung
    • Easy-to-web search for people with learning disabilities as part of an integrated conception of cognitive web accessibility – Erle, Markus
    • EasyWeb – A Study How People with Specific Learning Difficulties Can Be Supported on Using the Internet – Matausch, Kerstin
    • In-Folio: An Open Source Portfolio for students with learning disabilities – Ball, Simon
    • Supporting the web experience of young people with learning disabilities – Weber, Harald
    • The need for Easy-to-Read information on web sites – Bohman, Ulla

Annual Conference of The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Know of another such conference? Please post a comment.

My Current Cognitive Web Accessibility Projects


The following are brief descriptions of projects I have undertaken to help make the Web more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities.

Note: If you would like to help with any of these projects, please post a comment or contact me.

Helping a Nonprofit Provide PC- & Web Access to People with Intellectual Disabilties


Yesterday, I visited a nonprofit that serves several hundred people with intellectual disabilities. I met with the executive director, the director of information services, and a representative of the people being served. We discussed setting up a computer lab, providing computers to people living in their residences, and training.

Generally, the people being served do not possess computers. There is a small number who use the computers of public libraries. A poll taken by the representative indicated significant interest in acquiring and learning to use computers, with e-mail being the main purpose. The executive director expressed the need for people also to learn basic employment-related skills, such as word processing, spreadsheet use and job finding.

About computers in a lab and in residences, identified questions included the following.

  1. Should and could technical staff resources be extended to set up and maintain computers, related infrastructure, and end-user support?
  2. Which other resources should and could be provided: e.g., Internet connections, computers, software, training?
  3. How could the agency help protect people from nefarious activities such as scams and malware infestations?
  4. What assistive-technology hardware and/or software might be needed? Who would purchase and support it?

I suggested an overall approach. We brainstormed about some potential solutions.

  1. Have the three groups (executive, information technology, and the people being served) work together to develop policies. The policies would both offer and reasonably limit:
    1. hardware and software installation;
    2. maintenance and technical support;
    3. services such as broadband Internet connections, and how they could be supported financially;
    4. minimum security standards;
    5. end-user training;
  2. Start with setting up a computer lab in part to train people who want a computer in their residence.
  3. Set up central management of the computers, as schools and businesses do, to:
    1. prevent installation of rogue software;
    2. keep operating systems and applications up-to-date; and
    3. revert computers to a previously-stored state either regularly or if trouble occurs.
  4. Consider router / firewall services:
    1. requiring computers to meet minimum standards before attaching to a network or to the Internet; and
    2. providing anti-virus, anti-malware and, perhaps, Web site-restrictions.
  5. Install on computers exclusively a Web browser and software ancillary to it.
  6. Train people on the basics of Web-based applications such as Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live.
  7. Show people how to use Web-based e-mail or perhaps an e-mail product designed for people with intellectual disabilities.
  8. Develop training not only for the people being served, but also for support staff who could help them maintain newly-acquired skills. The representative of the people being served expressed ideas for related funding.
  9. Perhaps bring into the residences, after the work with the computer lab has gone well, sharable broadband connections and/or computers.
  10. Consider, instead of computers, a device such as the Apple iPad. Potential advantages are:
    1. low purchase cost, especially if it could be used in place of very-expensive assistive technology;
    2. low maintenance, in part because hardware support would be provided by the manufacturer, not by the agency’s technical staff;
    3. a simple-to-use interface that would not require learning how to use a mouse or a (external) keyboard;
    4. built-in connection to the Internet via a wireless- or cellular network.

I agreed to continue in a technical-advisory role. I also committed to work directly with people to learn about their difficulties using computers and the Web, and to help train them to overcome those problems. Such training would be passed on to support staff so long-term assistance could be provided.

I will post updates about the project as it progresses. Have advice? Want to get involved? Please post a comment or contact me.

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.


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