Web Accessibility Issues For Cognitive Disable People Computer Science Essay

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Human Computer Interaction is nothing but the interaction between computers and users. The basic goal of HCI is to improving the interaction between users and interaction systems, these interaction systems may be websites or mobiles or iPods and etc. For developing the websites the web developers must follow the w3c recommendations. According to w3c, the web accessibility means "people with disabilities can use the web" (Source: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php). Web accessibility covers all disabilities for accessing the web content. According to Disability discrimination Act the term disability refers to "someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities" (Source: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/RightsAndObligations/DisabilityRights/DG_4001069). The disabilities include visual disability, cognitive disability, hearing disability and etc. From the last one and half decade web is the most useful medium for the people in various fields. So the web designers must consider the disability people also while designing the websites.

Cognitive disability is the largest disability group in our community. But the cognitive disability is the least understood and least discussed type of disability. As a result, the web developers rarely design the websites accessible to the cognitive disable people. The people with cognitive may have memory problems, dyslexia, problem solving, visual comprehension and etc. so lot of research work will be going on this kind of people. In one survey it is noted that (in 2000) around 21.1% of people are suffering with visual disabilities, 27.2% of people are suffering with hearing problems and 42.2% of people are suffering with cognitive and learning disabilities. So we need to concentrate more on Cognitive disabilities.

This report will typically explore some of the web accessibility issues and some of the solutions to those web accessibility problems faced by cognitive disable people. And the present area of research in human computer interaction.


This section describes about the problems of Cognitive Disabled people while accessing the web. There are more number of Cognitive Disabilities are present but I will discuss some of the major categories of the Cognitive disabilities.

We can divide the Cognitive Disabilities as:

Clinical Cognitive disabilities: This disability includes


Down Syndrome

traumatic brain injury

dyscalculia (difficulty with math)

Functional Cognitive disabilities: This disability includes


Problem Solving


Math Comprehension

Visual Comprehension

dyslexia (difficulty reading)

We need to concentrate more on the Functional Cognitive disabilities while considering the web accessibility issues because those are directly related to concerns of web developers.

Different types and causes of cognitive disabilities:


There are three types of memories and those are immediate memory (Working memory), Short-term memory and long-term memory. If a person wants to remember any meaningful data (data may be of any form which may be text or image) the data first will be stored into immediate memory and then to short-term memory and from short-term memory to long-term memory. The people who are cognitively disabled may face difficulties with any of the memories which we discussed above. The data must have to be simple and easy to understand and meaningful than the users may not face any problems while remembering the data.


The Cognitive disabled people may not present 100% attention towards the task that they want to do. The websites which are designed with blinking icons and scrolling items are so much iterating to the user while accessing the website. If a website is allowing the pop-ups at regular interval of times than the people who are using that website may leave the website. The websites which follow the best design principles will stop using those contents.

Learning disabilities:

The cognitively disable people may have difficulties in reading, writing, learning, reasoning, calculating the information. In US over 43% of children's are facing the language and learning disabilities.

Mental Retardation:

The IQ of an average person is 100 so a person who is having the IQ of below 70 may considered as mentally retarded person. A person who is having the IQ of below 70 may not handle his own works independently. There are over 2.1 millions of people of US are considered as mentally retarded persons which might be 1% of US people.

Alzheimer's disease:

The people who are suffering with this disease might have the problems of confusion and disorientation. Over 5% of the Americans are facing this problem.


The word DYSLEXIA can be dividing as "dys" means poor and "lexia" means language. So the DYSLEXIA people face the difficulty in reading and understanding the information. This disability is comes under the category of learning difficulties but in that reading is one.

Problems faced by cognitive disable people:

The cognitive disable may not use the input devices, like keyboard and mouse, as easy as possible like a normal person. They face difficulties when they are entering input or viewing the output of a certain message. If we take a web site that contains multiple pages for registering to that web site than at that time the complex screens may confuse them. The cognitively disable people may not present 100% attention towards the forms when they are registering to a website so if the website is allowing the pop-ups at regular intervals of time than they are easily distracted. The websites that allow auditory output might confuse them. The auditory output might not understand properly to the cognitively disable people because of the language and learning disabilities. If a website is allowing too much background noise than the cognitively disable people may not able to understand the auditory output properly. If the auditory output is too short than the cognitively disable people might miss the information.

If the cognitively disable people are dealing with sequential operations and the screens are complex to understand than they face problems when they want to understand the information present in that screen. This type of people might face problems when they are dealing with sequential operations, selecting the data from the large data sets, dealing with controls present in that screen and the screens with timed response from the user.


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Figure 1. An example of badly designed website. Source http://mamascheesies.com/



Figure 2. An example of badly designed website. Source http://mamascheesies.com/



The web site is having very poor background colour. The users with cognitive disability may not digest this kind of background colour.

See the pointer one that is the menu of the particular website. The users with this kind of disability may not know what that link is about.

Closely observe the pointer 2 because there is a link to another website and that link is forwarding the control to another website. So users with impairments may not able to see and access that link.

For shopping kind of websites the designers has to reduce the scrollbar but in this website the scroll bar is too high.


Figure 2 is also same web site but here we need to observe one thing that is important.

Observe the pointer one the main menu is hiding when we remove the pointer from that menu and the main menu is coming down when the user drag the scroll bar towards downside. And the font size and style of that menu is not in readable form to the disable people.

Pointer 2 pointing to the menu items and the menu items are not visible to the users who are disable and the very important thing to notice is that the important menu items are placed in the downside of the page.


Website introduction:

While designing the website the developer of that website has to provide the introduction to that website so that people will understand the purpose of that website and the type of information present in that website. While providing the introduction to the website the language must be simple and easy to understand. The website introduction need not to be more but must be straight forward and that should be in plain language. If at all any pre-knowledge is required to understand that particular website the website designers has to provide the pre-knowledge information in the introduction and they have to maintain a link in the web site that allow the users to get the pre-knowledge information. The website designers have to provide a site map in the website so that users may get the information more easily.

Language and Definitions:

The web developers must give the definitions or meanings to the words that are complex to know for a common people. For example, it is not necessary that the civil or mechanical engineer has to know the meanings of the words that are related to computers (example compilers or debuggers). So web designers have to give the meaning of the particular word when it appears first. They can give the meaning the in two ways. One way is by providing an extra line of sentence when it first appears. Second way is to by giving a hyperlink to that word and defines the meaning of that particular word in another page.


The designers of the website must include a dropdown menu in the home page of the website so that users can navigate from one page to another page easily and the user can find the available options that are present in the website more easily. And the dropdown menu has to accessible from any page of the website. The web developer has to provide conformation to the user when the control is changing from one state to another state. The conformation may be in the form of text or an auditory indication. The conformation must be simple so user can understand that conformation easily. The developers of the website have to design the website more uniformly to decrease the confusion for cognitive disable people while navigation.

Graphics Usage:

The usage of graphics should be appropriate to convey the specific type of information. The web designers are using the graphics for important information (by using marquee effect the web designers are scrolling the latest news in their news websites). So the website is easily accessible and more user friendly to the users. The cognitive disable people face the difficulty when understanding the text that is more complex. The usage of graphics should provide a sense to the content and the page information in a glance. We may use the graphics in the navigation purpose.

The web developers have to take care of more usage of graphics while designing the website. The usage of animations and more graphics may confuse this type of people so we need to use them with very much care.


This section mainly concentrates on solutions that are taken by web developers for cognitively disable people to access the websites more clearly without facing any problems. For accessing the websites the cognitively disable people may use the third party assistive technologies. And those technologies may be hardware or software. These technologies may convert the text in the form of speech etc. The web content accessibility guidelines 2.0(WCAG 2.0) given four general guidelines to access the web more clearly for disabled people and those are the websites must be 1) perceivable 2) robust 3) understandable 4) operable. In WCAG level1 of 3.2.2 is focusing on input and 3.3.1 is focusing on error identification for the users with cognitive disable people. On the other hand WCAG level2 of 3.2.3 is focusing on navigation, 3.3.2 is focusing on error suggestion and 3.3.3 is focusing on error prevention.

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is main activity of the w3c. This activity is responsible in content creation and guidelines for browsers. Web Accessibility guidelines mainly concentrates on web accessibility solutions for the people who are disable. And each guide line we may call them as a check point for that guideline. For example WCAG 1.0 says that for any image there must be an equivalent text format or an alt attribute for that image that shows the text.

Paul Bohman in his article says "We Still Know Too Little, and We Do Even Less" about the cognitive disable people. Because of the difficulties in determining the disabilities in cognitive disability behaviour the web developers doesn't have any recommendations for these people. But w3c given some of the recommendations for this kind of people in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

For the cognitive disable people researchers at "web-aim" are developed a web accessibility evaluation tool and that tool is WAVE. This tool will help for the developers to decrease the difficulties of cognitively disable people while accessing the web. And they gave some checklist to solve some of the problems that are faced by cognitive disable people.

Web Accessibility Checklist :

Maintaining consistency is the very important aspect throughout the site. So cognitive disable people may face 100% attention towards the web page. Consistency refers to page display (page to page) and navigation and etc. If the user of the page is trying to modify the text size of the page than the page must be transformable to the increased font size and the page must be readable after increasing that font size. The same must be applicable to the images also.

The web designers have to provide the content in multiple forms than the users with cognitive disability tries to understand the information in any form. If the web designer is writing the complex data than it is better to show that information in any animation or images format so the users can easily understand the information. Use different font styles for important information than the user can distinguish the normal information to important information but usage of font sizes must be appropriate. More animations and unusual font styles may confuse the user and that may divert the attention of the people. And more over the people with cognitive disability may not face 100 % attention towards the websites so web developers have to avoid the unusual font sizes.

Content organization must be appropriate by using headings and lists. Dividing the large information into paragraphs with appropriate headings might help to the users. Usage of ordered lists and unordered lists while organizing the content is very much useful. The web developers must avoid the background sounds otherwise they have to give the audio control to the user.

Usage of language must be simple and that must be appropriate to the content. There must be appropriate line height and length and spacing between the characters. The text size must be 10 pixels or more than 10 pixels while writing the information. Horizontal scroll must not be there when user tries to increase the font size of a page. The web designers must differentiate the visited links and non-visited links in the website that might help to the users with disability. These all comes under the cascading style sheets (CSS). Designing of CSS content is very much important and we need to give the control of CSS to the users that may help them to access the webpage more easily.

The cognitive people are not fast in accessing the web or filling the forms so the web developers need to give more control on time when the users are filling the sensitive data in the online. And the web developers need to avoid the automatic redirections to another page when the session time is completed. Provide clues in the web site for filling the form details. If any errors occur during completing the form than the web developers need to give detailed information about the error message. And web developers have to provide a chance to re-submitting the form again. Provide multiple methods to get the different types of contents available in the web page.


These technologies will help the disable people to interact with the web contents without any problem. And we may call them as adaptive software when the assistive technologies are using with the computers. We can use the assistive technologies with browsers, graphical desktops and etc.

SpellCast Navi:

This tool is designed for the people who are visually disabled. This tool will run on any web browser and installation is not necessary for this tool. This tool converts the bi-lingual text into synthetic speech and the speech coming from this tool is more clear for the people.


Wave is a web-accessibility tool for the cognitive disable people. This tool greatly assists the evolution of web-content present in the websites.


CBBC developed by Children's British Broadcasting Corporation. This tool developed by the online team of CBBC for the children's who are having the disabilities. This CBBC tool help the children's (who are having physical impairments) in accessing the news websites.


This RFID means Radio Frequency Identification Cards. This tool is for the elder adult's people and having the cognitive disability. This tool is integrated in the computer and visible as alternative to mouse for this kind of people.

Scanning Software:

This software is very much useful for cognitive and physical disable people. This software announces the information when selection is made by the user.

Screen Magnifiers:

This is inbuilt software present in windows. And this software is very much useful for low vision people. Magnifier increases the size of the text so low vision people can understand the text easily.

Screen Readers:

This software is very much useful for the people who are blind and who are facing the Dyslexia problems. This software converts the text into speech so by using this blind people may access the web.


In the scenario I am taking the example of Google news web site as a good designed website.

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Figure 4). Example for good design and accessible website. Source: http://news.google.co.uk/news?edchanged=1&ned=uk

This website is one of the best website for the people who want to read the news in the online.


Observe the pointer one and that shows different types of links to different types of news. And observe clearly, the web designer maintains different types of colours for different types of news.

The pointer two gives the links of different types of languages. For example, in India we have many languages so the web site is showing some of the languages which most of the people may speak. If the user wants to read the news in his own language than user may select his own language.

One pull down button is present, which is for selecting the country. So users from different countries can select their country news. This is much user friendly environment.

The cognitive people may face some difficulties while reading the news so developer of this website also given the links to Headings and images. So the people with disabilities may understand the news easily and more clearly.

The developer of that website given the page control to the user by providing the option of editing the page. So the user with disabilities can change the page according to his requirements.

If the user wants to add an extra content in the page that is also possible by that link so he may add his interested field news in the webpage. So this is also more user friendly to the users.

And main thing to observe that there is been a clear cut separation between the news and the font size and style of the website is easily readable. And font colour is black and blue on white background screen so the users with disabilities can easily understood the information present in the website. User can search the news also by giving the input in the text box.


IBM's project on HCI:

Koala: "A system for recording, automating and sharing business processes performed in a web browser ".

(Source: http://domino.research.ibm.com/comm/research.nsf/pages/r.hci.html)

Currently WEB-AIM is doing a project for cognitive disable people to assist the web developers to create web sites that are more accessible to this kind of people through U.S department of education.


This section describes the limitations to the web-accessibility solutions.

Technical issues:

While developing the websites, by taking into consideration of different disabilities, the web developers must follow too many principles. So it is very hard for the designers to design the websites much more accessible to the people. Organization has to maintain a separate time and people to redesigning the website for different type of disable people. They need to develop a website in such a manner that , the web site need to run in any configuration and the website need to support the assistive technologies that are using by the users.

Economic issues:

Main thing here is money. The organization need to keep more effort on designing the websites for the disable people after development of that website. There are three types of Economical issues and those are general, software, hardware issues. The number of people with disabilities comes under the general issues. For example in a survey it has been reported that over 750 millions of people want the special needs in when they are browsing the internet. Coming to software and hardware issues, the cost of the software's and hardware's are decreased from the last decade but some software and hardware costs are even higher so if the web developers want to develop the develop the websites by considering all the people it's going to be very costly for developing the websites.


It is one of the aims of designers to make the websites more accessible to the users who are facing the problems with cognitive disability. This report has given some of the most common problems faced by the cognitive disable people and the solutions to these types of people. And the in this report I included some of the assistive technologies used by the disable people to access the web contents without any problems. And some of the Web content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and some of the W3C recommendations for the disable people. Limitations for web accessibility solutions are also included those include technical issues and economical issues.

Some companies need to take the initiative to give the better idea about the Assistive technologies present for the disable than they can access the web contents easily. The web developers need to keep more efforts while designing the websites and they need to consider the all kinds of people. Mainly companies have to develop the online communities for taking the problems from the disable people so they can redesign the website.