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Cognitive Disability & Digital Accessibility

a child taking notes - cognitive disability - digital accessibility

The idea of accessibility for people with disabilities is not limited to digital or ICT accessibility. Digital accessibility addresses the ability of people with visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities to access electronic resources such as the Internet, software, mobile devices and e-readers. It also covers people with age-related or temporary disabilities due to accident or illness. 

Accessibility for users with cognitive disabilities is a greater challenge than for other types of disabilities. While the use of computer technology in the classroom of students with cognitive disabilities has proven effective, the variety of skills and experiences of users with cognitive disabilities can cause problems. 

Our specialized team at BarrierBreak provides guidance on how people with cognitive disabilities best deal with accessibility issues. We aim to provide practical, step-by-step information and design to deliver effective best practices for web and digital accessibility. 

The Underdogs

While vision and hearing impairments are often discussed when it comes to site accessibility, cognitive disabilities represent the most computer users with disabilities according to the National Center for Disability Access and Education. Cognitive impairment is the least understood disability category, and much of what has been published on cognitive impairment from a clinical and scientific point of view does not include questions related to website accessibility. 

Cognitive learning is a neurological disability that includes neurological disorders as well as behavioral and mental disorders. 

What is Cognitive Disability?

Cognitive impairment refers to a wide range of disabilities – from people with intellectual impairments that limit their ability to age-related problems with thinking and remembering. Cognitive impairments include people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It affects how people express and receive information and communication, their motor skills, vision, hearing and ability to comprehend and consume information. Such disabilities can impair the ability to read and type text, recognize images, make precise gestures and locate important information.  

Accessibility allows people with cognitive disabilities to focus on the primary purpose of the content. Taking into account deficits in reading, language and language comprehension through supplementary media such as illustrations, symbols, videos and audio can improve accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities. Images, icons and graphic content can help users with cognitive impairments. 

Complex texts can cause difficulties for users with cognitive impairments. People with dyslexia, for example, may find it difficult and time-consuming to access text information. Perception disorders, also known as learning disabilities, include difficulties in processing sensory information such as auditory, tactile and visual. 

The Modus Operandi of Digital Accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 document is based on a broader understanding of how to create accessible content for specific user groups. The WCAG is a set of recommendations to make digital content and technologies accessible to people with disabilities. Regardless of cognitive, learning or neurological disabilities, many adapt digital content to make it easier to see and to use. 

People with cognitive and learning disabilities use a variety of technologies to adapt and simplify content to their needs. For example, screens readers designed for blind users or for accessing content on a computer or mobile phone are increasingly used by people with cognitive impairments to promote literacy. Supporting technologies have also been developed to facilitate cognitive access for people with physical or sensory disabilities. 

In practice, people with cognitive disabilities are less effective at hacking physical or sensory access technologies to meet their own needs, but that is no excuse for not implementing specific CA measures. Cognitive accessibility includes thinking about accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. 

What can you do?

Align your digital content with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (commonly referred to as WCAG 2.0) the most widely accepted standard for equal access to the Internet. Compliance with these guidelines may help protect against lawsuits alleging violations of Section 508 and American with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

In short, barrier-free websites help secure brands that promote positive word-of-mouth for the disabled population among their friends, family members and the general public. Several organizations have joined forces to identify measures to support the digital inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities. 

It seems that the use of information and communication technology (ICT) is a challenge for people with intellectual disabilities and that there is a digital divide between them and more connected citizens. 

We can bridge that gap for you! Our highly experienced team at BarrierBreak does not only ensure your digital products conform to accessibility standards but also provides a barrier-free experience for people with cognitive disabilities. 

Write to and reach out for further assistance. 

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