Web accessibility for those kinds of users who have cognitive, learning and neurological is more complex than one for other disabilities because it’s not just focused on those, requiring alike elements from other impairment. Usually, people who are suffering from those disabilities can have other impairment, too.
For those people with any neurological disorder, processing and comprehending information are the two main actions that they are struggling with. Through the most common impairment are included:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) — difficulty focusing (e.g., on a single task, for longer periods, easy to be distracted etc.).
- Autism — difficulty in interacting with social communication.
- Mental health disabilities (mood disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, delirium) — people with this disabilities can be affected in their day-by-day activities by the medications’ side effects (e.g., blurred vision, memory impairments, tremors etc.).
- Memory impairments — both short and long-term memory impairment.
- Perceptual disabilities (learning disabilities) — difficulty in processing sensory information (auditory, tactile and visual information).
- Seizure disorders (migraines, epilepsy) — reaction to audio and visual stimulation.
The main things that you will need to take into consideration while designing an interface to be used also by the users with cognitive, learning and neurological impairment are:
- Using headings, subheadings, and lists for structuring the information. Structuring information in this way will help people to easily scan the page, to see the essential information of that all content and, in the same time, will help the machine to skim a page with a screen reader. What does it mean to skim a page? Is to jump from heading to heading, in this way reading just the main information presented in that whole.
- Make sure that the line length doesn’t exceed 70–80 characters. Short sentences are easy to read by any kind of users.
- Using more white space in your Webpage. Having a spatiality in your Webpage will help users with different cognitive, learning and neurological impairment to structure the information and to understand it easier.
- Consistency in colors, font, and locations of the elements in the Webpage. Consistency is one of the principles of user experience and it’s very important that your product has it. A lot of users are following a pattern while navigating on a Website, and changing their pattern can put them into the difficulty of using it.
- Implementing keyboard support. For those people with impairment it easy to have implemented the keyboard navigation (through shortcuts, commands) than the mouse navigation because, in that way, they will not need to follow the cursor of the mouse on the screen, an activity that for their condition requires a lot of focus. Also, this method will help not just this category of people, but users in general because the keyboard using while navigation increased in the last couple of years.
- Offering alternatives for multimedia content. Having a description for non-text content, it will not only help the screen-reader software to transmit de correct information to the user (to not skip an image, just because it does not have a description) but the users, too. When a Web page can’t open all the images, it’s recommended that in that place to have a short description, in this way, the user will know what that image is about. Also, this behavior needs to be implemented for video and audio elements, too.
Maybe challenging to add these to our products, but our work is to make sure that users are receiving answers to their needs, and that’s possible starting from the most basic part: navigation.