WCAG2 Guidelines and Cognitive Impairment a11y ldn 2011

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A collection of some of the WCAG2.0 accessibility guidelines that relate to those with cognitive impairments. Note: this is a selection - not a full list.

A collection of some of the WCAG2.0 accessibility guidelines that relate to those with cognitive impairments. Note: this is a selection - not a full list.

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  • Used to work for large financial organisationBuilding accessible sitesAdvising and training others in accessibilityTesting or auditing accessibilityBut left and formed my own company


  • 1. WCAG 2.0 Guidelines and Cognitive Impairment
    Graham Armfield
  • 2. WCAG 2.0 and cognitive impairment
    Graham Armfield
    Who am I?
    Web developer
    Accessibility consultant
    Accessibility tester
    Fix the Web partner
  • 3. What this presentation will cover
    A selection of the WCAG2.0 success criteria and how they relate to those who suffer from cognitive impairments.
    This is not the full selection
    Note that I’ve grouped the success criteria by subject rather than by numerical order or priority
    Also note that I’ve paraphrased success criteria text
    The numbering on each slide refers to the WCAG success criteria number
    The priority level is also shown
  • 4. What this presentation will cover
    Timed events
    Handling focus and input
    Signposting structure and location
    Signposting destinations
    Words and meaning
    Handling errors
  • 5. For each time limit that is set by the content, at least one of the following is true: 
    It can be turned off
    Time limit can be adjusted
    User is warned before time limit expires
    The time limit is part of a real time event – eg auction
    The time limit is essential – extending it would invalidate activity
    Helps ensure that users can complete tasks without unexpected changes in content
    See also…
    2.2.1 Timing Adjustable Level A
  • 6. Timing is not an essential part of the event or activity presented by the content, except for non-interactive synchronized media and real-time events. 
    Effectively - no time limit at all.
    2.2.3 Timing Level AAA
  • 7. If any audio on a Web page plays automatically for more than 3 seconds, either a mechanism is available to pause or stop the audio, or a mechanism is available to control audio volume independently from the overall system volume level. 
    Audio can be distracting
    Separate volume control so as not to interfere with any other audio aids the person may be using
    1.4.2 Audio Control Level A
  • 8. Moving, blinking, scrolling, Auto-updating: must allow the user to pause, stop, or hide it or to control the frequency of the update unless it is essential.
    • These can all cause distractions
    Banner ads can make pages unusable to some people
    2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide Level A
  • 9. Elements on a page receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability.
    • Non-logical sequence can be confusing
    • 10. Can seriously impact effectiveness of page
    Some argue that tab order should follow visible screen order – whereas some favour content first.
    2.4.3 Focus Order Level A
  • 11. Any element on a page that can receive keyboard focus should overtly indicate that it has focus.
    Eg. Links, form input elements, buttons
    Aids understanding of page
    Helps users orientate themselves within the page.
    I would also include hover state in that too. Just an underline may not be enough for some – and may be too close to text.
    2.4.7 Focus Visible Level AA
  • 12. When any component on a page receives focus, it does not initiate a change of content or context.
    Unexpected changes are confusing
    3.2.1 On Focus Level A
  • 13. Changing the setting of any component on a page does not automatically cause a change of context unless the user has been advised of the behaviour before using the component.
    Checkboxes or radio buttons that hide and show panels of text
    Dropdown box used as navigation
    Can cause confusion
    3.2.2 On Input Level A
  • 14. Headings and labels describe topic or purpose.
    ie. Signposting blocks of content
    Aids understanding
    Helps break up content into manageable chunks
    2.4.6 Headings and Labels Level AA
  • 15. Navigational mechanisms that are repeated on multiple pages within a site or application occur in the same place and same relative order each time they are repeated, unless a change is initiated by the user.
    Aids orientation in page and site
    Prevents distracting changes
    3.2.3 Consistent Navigation Level AA
  • 16. Information about the user's location within a set of Web pages (website) is available.
    Eg. Breadcrumb trail, or indicators within navigation
    Helps users orientate themselves
    2.4.8 Location Level AAA
  • 17. The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone, or from the link text together with the context of the link.
    Click here to download document
    Avoids issue of users arriving in unexpected locations or triggering functionality they didn’t mean to
    But see also…
    2.4.4 Link Purpose (in Context) Level A
  • 18. The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone.
    Click here to download document
    Avoids issue of users arriving in unexpected locations or triggering functionality they didn’t mean to
    2.4.9 Link Purpose (Link Only) Level AAA
  • 19. When text requires reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level, an alternate version that does not require such a high reading ability is available.
    Could be alternate pages, or show simple summaries by default and show advanced content with scripting.
    Caters for those with learning difficulties or with linguistic comprehension impairment
    3.1.5 Reading Level Level AAA
  • 20. A mechanism is available for identifying specific definitions of words or phrases used in an unusual way, including jargon.
    Avoids confusion
    3.1.3 Unusual Words Level AAA
  • 21. A mechanism for identifying the expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is available.
    Avoids confusion
    3.1.4 Abbreviations Level AAA
  • 22. Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.
    Larger text aids legibility
    Note: Enlarging text is not the same as zooming in – difference between Chrome and Firefox/IE
    Ideally enlarging text should not break page design
    1.4.4 Enhanced Text Level AA
  • 23. Ensure sufficient contrast between text colour and background colour.
    Better contrast ensures easier legibility
    Note: Text that is part of a logo or brand name has no minimum contrast requirement.
    But, some find too much contrast leads to difficulties too
    1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum) Level AA
    1.4.6 Contrast (Enhanced) Level AAA
  • 24. If an input error is automatically detected, the item that is in error is identified and the error is described to the user in text.
    ie. Not just change of colour or appearance of icon
    Users understand why unexpected things have happened
    Note: use of colour and/or icons to indicate errors is a useful mechanism but it should not be the only mechanism.
    3.3.1 Error Identification Level A
  • 25. If an input error is detected and suggestions for correction are known, then the suggestions are provided to the user, unless it would jeopardize security.
    Users are not put off by unexplained issues
    3.3.3 Error Suggestion Level AA
  • 26. I hope it’s been useful
    Any questions?