People who meet Lynn, for the first time, or know very little about her, often tell her that they are very surprised to learn that she lives with a disability. Lynn explains: “They are even more surprised to learn that my disability kept me out of the work force, and unable to interact effectively with others, for several years. This is not uncommon for those of us who live each day with some form of mental illness. Because of the significant stigma surrounding the disease, most of us go to great lengths never to reveal our secret. Many people do not even reveal it to close friends and family members.”
Lynn’s story is important because it helps us understand why it is so difficult for web designers and engineers to grasp the needs of people who live with cognitive disabilities: we aren’t comfortable discussing them. Often times the needs of the cognitive user are down-played or overlooked, simply because it’s not easy for us to consider them. As someone who works towards creating more accessible websites as the President of WeCo, Lynn sees this reality every day.
Making Your Website Accessible for the Cognitive User
Developing for the needs of the cognitively disabled user are usually the easiest design choices to make, and often dually impact the nondisabled user in helpful ways as well. This can include:
- Making sure that your text is simple, accurate and concise.
- Pages aren’t overwhelmed with text and ample white space is included.
- Leave distracting, moving graphics out of the design plan.
A good source for explaining the realities of living with a cognitive disability, and ensuring you’re designing well for this group’s needs, is WebAim’s introduction to the subject. Read more about Lynn’s invisible disability.