This Wiki page is edited by participants of the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Task Force participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.


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Use Case

A person wants to make a payment online.

Definitions of online payments are at:

Basically, on-line payment systems are e-commerce businesses allowing money transfers to be made only through the Internet. They function as a fast and secure electronic alternative to traditional methods as checks and money orders. The systems perform payment processing not only for online vendors, auction sites, and other corporate users but between their customers.

Online bill pay is an electronic payment service that allows one to set up a secure online account to make one time or recurring bill payments. The source of funds for the payments is usually a checking account, but some bill pay services also work with credit cards. All bills and transactions are accessed on the bill pay website.

NOTE: “Online payment” and “web payment” are treated synonymously in this paper, but are they in fact the same?? Online payment systems are considered to be “web-based”.

Challenges for people with cognitive disabilities in online payments:


While the use of computer technologies could be effective in helping individuals with cognitive disabilities make online payments, the diversity of ability, conditions, and experience of users with cognitive disabilities can create problems in many online payment situations. The sheer number of different types of cognitive disabilities and effects that they can have on users also adds to an already complex issue.

Designing accessible web payment systems for users with cognitive disabilities can present some interesting challenges. Certain individuals may have trouble processing language and numbers, deciphering auditory input, and with spatial orientation. To understand material regarding web payments, users must be able to identify information and integrate it into meaningful “pieces” or “components”. A person with a brain injury (or other cognitive impairments) may take longer to think and respond to online stimuli. In a web payment system, multiple windows, complex or cluttered displays can create distractions and processing problems, and sequential operations can be likewise distracting to those with memory deficit problems. The use of right and left click buttons on a mouse can create difficulties for users with memory, perception or reflex problems.

Individuals with lower literacy may have different reading patterns than high literacy readers when it comes to understanding web payment material; while high literacy readers scan text, low literacy users may read the text “word for word”. This can creates a narrow field of view which may causes them to miss objects and information (essential for completing online payments successfully) not directly in the flow of text that they are reading.

Effect of Memory Impairments: Individuals with working memory issues and short term/long term memory issues can have difficulty with navigation and interacting with basic functionality of an online payment system (forgetting information, and knowing where to go next, for example).

Effect of impaired executive function: Individuals with emotional control/self-monitoring issues, task flexibility limitations, and planning/organization/execution difficulties, and impaired judgment may find it hard to progress properly through a myriad of tasks in web payments, and may become easily frustrated or give up).

Effect of impaired reasoning: Those having issues with fluid reasoning, mathematical intelligence limitations, seriation/behavioral/comprehension knowledge, and abstraction difficulties may find it hard to recognize patterns and compute numbers in web payment systems.

Effect of attention-related limitations: Persons with selective attention/divided attention issues may have difficulty separating out the important aspects from the irrelevant ones in a web payment transaction. Persons with a limit on sustained attention may not be able to successfully complete all the steps in a web payment transaction.

Effect of impaired language related functions: Individuals with speech perception or speech issues may not be able to recognize or respond intelligently to spoken commands in a web payments system. Those with literacy difficulties may not be able to properly read the instructions for a web payments system, and thus not know what to do.

Effect of impaired literacy related functions: With difficulties in speech perception and/or visual perception, individuals may not be able to read or understand written or spoken commands regarding web payment information. Issues with phoneme processing may make it hard to properly process auditory cues, and cross-model association difficulties may hinder associations of symbols with meanings in a web payment transaction.

Effect of perception-processing limitations: Visual perception (e.g., object recognition, pattern recognition) issues for certain persons may make it difficult to properly perceive the relative locations and meanings of symbols related to web payment. In addition, individuals with auditory/speech, motor, and/or tactile perception limitations may hinder use of web payment system displayed via those modalities.

Effect of reduced knowledge: Those with limitations on grammar, metaphorical, and/or lexical knowledge could find it hard to interact correctly with web payment systems using those capabilities to provide critical information for understanding. Issues in cultural knowledge and base language knowledge (including jargon, usage, idioms, icons, etc.) may also figure into making a web payment properly as intended.

Effect of impaired understanding of behaviors or consciousness: Improper understanding of behavioral norms, social cues, that may be important in successfully completing a web payment may introduce difficulties for certain persons.

Proposed solutions

It is important in any proposed solutions to make operational tasks (interacting with a web payment system) as transparent as possible in order that users can focus their attentions on the functional aspects (relating to content). The following solutions support general usability of a web payment system for everyone, in addition to assisting those with cognitive disabilities.


  • Since improper or ambiguous navigation and labeling can create confusion, it is important to standardize controls, features, and navigation within a web payment system – consistency will greatly aid users with short-term memory difficulties.
  • It is important whenever possible to keep menus short and easy to understand, and to use clear labels and signs.
  • It is essential to provide ways to backtrack or start over in navigation. For example, the use of breadcrumbs can help to provide confirmation of navigation and reinforce objectives.
  • It is desirable to provide site-maps for larger online payment web-based systems.
  • It is essential to provide prompts and feedback to let users know if they made the correct choice and to help them get back on track when they encounter an error.
  • It is desirable to increase the size of "clickable" areas to aid persons who have visual processing or mobility challenges.
  • In a web payment system, it is important to limit the number of options to prevent cognitive overload, and to offer a shallow or narrow decision structure.
  • A web payment system should be designed so as to avoid the need for simultaneous tasks.


It is desirable to allow the user control of as many aspects of the web payment system as possible. For example, the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) can be used to provide control of how information is presented. CSS can be used to change font and font size; change the line height or space between lines of text; increase the size of"clickable" areas; allow for mouse over highlighting of text for easier reading; change the background color of a page; and invert colors and increase contrast on the page.

  • It is desirable to provide external lists for complex operations for those with memory problems.
  • It is important to identify pre-knowledge necessary for a user to successfully utilize a web payment system.
  • It is desirable to provide definitions and explanations for unusual or technical terms presented in a web payment system (for example, by utilizing the ABBR and ACRONYM tags in HTML as appropriate).
  • In a web payment system, it should be ensured that alerts and feedback remain on a screen until a user explicitly removes them.
  • It is important to optimize search facilities, and to include tolerance for misspellings and typos.
  • It is essential to ensure that web payment systems are compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
  • In a web payment system, it is important to include speaking text/narration for users with low-literacy or processing impairments

Content and Text

Proposed solutions should address the three categories of human perception: active – conditioned by a person's knowledge and expectations; patterned – as the brain attempts to organize information into meaningful patterns; and selective – picking out the information that stands out to the learner. In particular,

  • Since complex text can create difficulties for users with cognitive impairments, appropriate graphics should be used to help reduce cognitive load and enhance understanding.
  • It is important to use plain language in short, concise sentences (keep it simple) in a web payment system.
  • It is desirable to reiterate information for users with memory problems.
  • A technique may be to use the “newspaper style of writing” – start with a summary then provide the material in an order from most important to least important. It is important to avoid lengthy text or audio, and to prioritize information to ensure that all critical material is at the top half of the page or"above the fold", as well as to avoid scrolling if possible.
  • It is desirable to "chunk" materials in a web payment system – one idea per paragraph.
  • It is desirable to use bulleted lists whenever possible.
  • It is important to use meaningful headings.
  • In a web payment system, line length should ideally not exceed 70-80 characters.
  • It is useful to avoid "rivers of white" caused by full justification.
  • It is desirable to avoid or provide alternatives for non-literal text and colloquialisms in a web payment system.
  • It is desirable to include plenty of white space on the page.
  • It is good to offer individuals a choice of "long" or"short" content so that they can determine the level of detail that they require when interacting with a web payment system.
  • It may be good to design for working memory limitations (2; 1), and to reduce the standard 7 ± 2 maximum elements guideline for short-term memory to 4 ± 2.
  • A possible technique is to allow the use of unexpected events to possibly help a person retain information.
  • A possible technique is to investigate the use of readability tests, while not all-inclusive, can provide assistance in maintaining an appropriate level of simplicity for text.


Making a web payment system visually interesting and easy to read can make "listening" to that system difficult (due to the use of graphical spacers and tables, which can disrupt the reading order of related text). The use of database driven text and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can create web payment systems that satisfy the needs of both visual and aural users, while still making it easy to change information and textual data. Additionally, style sheets help to convey context, allow for graceful degradation, and make it available for a greater number of possible browsers to read the code properly.

  • Consistency is a design goal for most web payment systems. All of the pages in a web payment system should remain as consistent as possible. It is important to ensure that material is well organized on all pages of a web payment system.
  • It is desirable to streamline page design in a web payment system.
  • It is beneficial to highlight urgent or key information in a web payment system; for example, the use of color and highlighting can be used to aid in selective perception .
  • In web payment system design, it is good to avoid using menus or other text that appears and disappears when the mouse moves over it, and to avoid text that moves or changes.
  • It is extremely desirable to use high contrast between text and background.
  • Reducing clutter and extra material in a web payment system can improve usability/accessibility for those with visual and cognitive disabilities.


Access techniques (where necessary) involving using multimedia for interacting with web payment systems should include (at a minimum): captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing. However, with the internet, a variety of new options for multimedia have presented themselves.

  • It is desirable, since sound and vision may be "complementary modes of information", to use accompanying sounds to help cue a user as to what to do or to enhance a point. It is also desirable to use audio prompts to signal any change of state.
  • It is desirable to present online payment materials in multiple modes of input, such as including captions to audio and screen readers to enhance text; this can help increase comprehension. It is essential to provide alternate formats for material so that users can choose the format that best suits their needs
  • It may be important in a web payments systems to use fully accessible graphics and recognizable icons as navigation aids.
  • The use of appropriate and clear graphics can help to enhance understanding of materials on a web payments site. However, it is important to not overuse graphics and to avoid animated graphics, as they can be distracting and increase cognitive load. If animations or dynamic displays are being used, it is desirable to include controls that allow a user to adjust the speed and motion.
  • It is desirable to use familiar imagery to aid in memory retention, since there may be a lot of steps involved in progressing through a web payments system.

Reference Used: