How can web pages be made accessible to individuals who have cognitive disabilities?

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When designing web pages it is important to keep in mind the diversity of skills and abilities of the people who may visit the site. If a website will appeal to a broad audience that includes individuals with cognitive disabilities, then the website should be designed with those individuals in mind. Features that make websites easy to comprehend and navigate for everyone are often the most helpful for people with cognitive disabilities.

Basic strategies for making web pages accessible to individuals with cognitive disabilities include those listed below.

Appearance

  • Create a clean, well-organized, uniform look.
  • Avoid clutter; include sufficient white space.
  • Use high contrast between text and background.
  • Avoid too many choices, or too much information on one screen.
  • Avoid lengthy scrolling; provide links to additional content.

Navigation

  • Provide easy to find and clearly identified buttons and links.
  • Standardize navigation controls; be consistent.
  • Provide clear paths to retrace steps or start over.
  • Identify where on the site the user currently is.

Text and Graphics

  • Avoid large blocks of text.
  • Use clear language and short sentences.
  • Supplement text with appropriate graphics to enhance understanding. Be sure to include alt tags to make content within graphics accessible to visitors who cannot see the images.

For more information on design considerations relative to people who have various types of cognitive disabilities consult Cognitive Disabilities and the Web: Where Accessibility and Usability Meet and Cognitive Disabilities.

Principles of universal design and usability should be followed in all web design. For more information on these concepts consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base article What is the difference between accessible, usable, and universal design?

Last update or review: January 22, 2013