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.

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4 Responses to “10 Reasons Against Cognitive Web Accessibility”

  1. Elmook Says:

    I think you are right, but it’s worth to keep working!

    Like

  2. Everett Zufelt Says:

    I have a few questions to hopefully provide me with some clarity on your post.

    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.

    Can you please define “designers”?

    7. People with cognitive disabilities may also have physical- or sensory disabilities, which complicates efforts to make Web sites accessible to them.

    Can you please provide a few examples of where this is true? (note: I’m not saying that it is not true.)

    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.

    As a screen-reader user I can’t see a text-size widget being a burden at all. I do see that a web-site that automatically speaks its content on load would be a burden, but definitely not a site where speaking of the page only occurs upon the user activating a “Read me this page” control.

    Like

    • John Rochford Says:

      Thank you for posting a comment.

      My response to your request to define “designers”:

      The people to whom I am referring are those who create the look of a Web site and/or its interactive features. Typically, they are not the people who fill the site with accessible content. It may be helpful to know that, by “accessible content”, I mean text written in plain language, the inclusion of contextually-relevant images, etc..

      My response to your request for examples of how it could be true that physical- or sensory disabilities within people with cognitive disabilities may complicate efforts to make Web sites accessible to them:

      I started investigating cognitive Web accessibility to learn how best to create a Web site, http://www.clearhelper.org, that I intend to help people with intellectual disabilities use computers and the Web. It will be very challenging to create effective tutorials, which should incorporate literal, step-by-step instructions; positive-reinforcement elements, etc.. To design such features for people who are also blind is especially daunting.

      An example is the development of computer-based instruction to teach language skills to people with intellectual disabilities. The Shriver Center, where I work, has performed extensive, related research using matching-to-sample programs. They are wholly dependent upon vision. Developing such instructional technology, even without including people with sensory disabilities, has taken decades of work, yet is still in its infancy.

      About your comment that you do not see how accessibility-feature controls could be a burden:

      I am unable to explain this issue any better than did Jared Smith, of WebAIM. I refer you to his article, “Web Accessibility Preferences Are For Sissies?”, and to its posted comments.

      See: http://webaim.org/blog/web-accessibility-preferences-are-for-sissies/

      Like

  3. Gary Miller Says:

    Great stuff!

    Agree with all ten points. You say, after reason number 10:

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

    I’m totally with you on that!

    Cheers!

    Like

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