An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Web Accessibility for People With Cognitive Disabilities

Most business owners assume that web accessibility only addresses the issues faced by the visually impaired. However, according to the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG (WCAG 2.1), several types of disabilities must be taken into account.

When optimizing website accessibility, entrepreneurs must consider visual, audio, speech, movement, and cognitive impairments. Only then will their website become ADA compliant.

Business owners must realize that almost one-fifth of their customers might be living with a disability of some form. So if they don’t pay attention to customers with disabilities, they might lose substantial business. 

Nowadays, entrepreneurs have the liberty to utilize AI-powered compliance solutions like accessiBe or UserWay to make their websites automatically accessible. But they must understand how these disabilities affect people so that they can provide a better user experience for them.

In this article, we are going to discuss the different types of cognitive disabilities and how web accessibility can assist them to use a website.

Cognitive Disabilities

Cognitive disabilities affect several elementary brain functions, such as processing emotions, problem-solving capabilities, short-term and long-term memories, recognizing written language, and several others.

There are many kinds of cognitive disabilities, and understanding what each one means in medical terms might not be essential to make a website accessible to them.

You need to understand the different forms of barriers placed by cognitive disabilities to access a website. Some of these barriers are as follows.

  • The ability to pay attention and stay focused on a task at hand.
  • The speed at which a brain processes information.
  • How the brain retains short term and long term memory.
  • The brain’s ability to reason logically and plan an action.
  • How the brain recognizes and processes written or spoken language.
  • The ability to process simple calculations.

The above abilities also form the steps to how a human brain accesses, processes, and decides information.

To realize the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, imagine that you wish to purchase something from your website while one of these steps is not functioning the way it is supposed to. See how hard that is?

But if they can’t access or process the information on their own, they should get help from others, right? That is not appropriate because they have equal rights to be independent and function on their own.

Even the law agrees that people with disabilities should have equal access to public areas, and that includes virtual places like your website. 

Web Accessibility Challenges for Cognitive Disabilities

Websites that have not been optimized for accessibility may present several challenges to people with cognitive disabilities. These are a few examples of such challenges.

  • Words, examples, or explanations that may be too difficult to understand for people with cognitive disabilities.
  • The directions given on the website to complete a task may be too complicated to follow for some people.
  • Media or videos on the website might not have captions. Some people with cognitive disabilities might not be able to keep up with the media through the audio alone. 
  • Captions on media that can’t get turned off might be distracting for people with attention deficit disorders. They would not be able to focus on any part of the website while the captions are on.
  • Auto-playing videos might cause emotional distress to people with Hyperekplexia.
  • Parts of a website that cannot be accessed by keyboard navigation or voice activation may be a problem since people with cognitive disabilities often use assistive technologies to access websites.
  • Images that contain vital information without properly tagged alt- text will not be relayed to people with dyslexia using screen readers.
  • Acronyms or jargon that do not present an explanation can confuse and cause distress to people with cognitive disorders.

Assistive Technology

Several types of software and hardware can assist people with cognitive disabilities to access the internet. These technologies can help them type or speak what they wish to convey.

They can also be used to search topics online, access social media, and make documents. Some assistive technologies also help their higher brain functions by remembering vital information, such as usernames and passwords.

They can also help with the organization of thoughts before they want to write an email. Or the technologies can help a person keep track of their progress of a task, such as buying something from your website. 

Web Accessibility Guidelines for Cognitive Disabilities

Although the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) cover most kinds of disabilities, there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to cognitive disorders.

Therefore the Cognitive Accessibility Task Force (COGA) has been created by the World Wide Website Consortium (W3C) to cover these gaps. The objective of the group is to research the specific needs of users with cognitive disabilities to access the internet. 

Being an entrepreneur, you can also fight for the civil rights reserved for people with disabilities to access things online.

And it’s not only limited to making your website accessible to your customers. You can also identify ways in which websites can be improved and help organizations like the COGA at W3C.