Gap Analysis Summary

From Cognitive Accessibility Task Force

To DO Add a summary of all issue papers and techniques

Overview of techniques

Most designers want people to be able to use their site. However designs that might be difficult for some people to use can actually bar people with cognitive and learning disabilities from using the content at all. Typically this happens because content providers may not be familiar with the needs of users having these impairments. We have reviewed multiple user groups as a first phase to identify user needs and challenges that are not fully included in WCAG. (See From this research we have identified techniques and themes though the techniques that authors need to be aware of (and are not full addressed in WCAG 2.0) The key themes are:

  1. Help as many users as possible understand the site and know how to use it. This often involves using things that are clear and familiar to the user so that they do not have to learn new symbols, terms or design patters. Personalization based on user needs and markup properly annotated with cognitive semantics can help make the symbols and design as familiar to the user as possible.
  2. Prevent the user from making mistakes and make it easy to correct mistakes when they do occur. A good design and use of proven scripts will make errors less likely, but when they do occur the user should know how to correct them, without having to render other data or start from the beginning.
  3. Help the user to refocus and to restore context if attention is lost. Items like breadcrumbs can help orientate the user and help the user restore the context when it is lost. (Making breadcrumbs clickable can also help the user undo mistakes)

Main techniques include: (Taken from

  • Use a clear structure with easy to follow sections short paragraphs manageable chunks
  • Use an easy to follow writing style
  • Provide rapid and direct feedback
  • Help the user understand the content and orientate themselves in the content.
  • Help users complete and check their work by less likely that the user will make mistakes and easy to undo mistakes when they occur
  • Provide help
  • Help the user focus and help restore the context if attention is lost
  • Enable adaptability and personalization, so that symbols text and other features rare familiar and helpful to the user
  • Minimize the cognitive skills required to use the content and avoid barriers that stop people with cognitive disabilities from using content, such as hard to use security mechanisms.

A full list of the authoring techniques identified are at:

Summary of solutions

To help bridge the gap we propose the following strategies:

1. Construct a full list of techniques: See

2. Support an extension to WCAG that supports the techniques. This will include:

  1. Writing new WCAG Success criteria and techniques
  2. Suggesting changes to existing success criteria such as changing the text or the conformance level
  3. Proposing new success criteria when necessary.

As part of this effort it is important to make this guidance as clear and prescriptive as possible, so that author knows what they need to do and when they have met the requirements. See

3. Create a new semantics specification fog coga to define the associated semantics required for content adaptation

  1. This could be done via an ARIA module or a new Cognitive semantics specification
  2. The techniques for adaptation MUST use these semantics
  3. Specify concrete user settings to represent user preferences that can be used to direct a web application on how to modify the content

4. Define Testing criteria to ensure the authors know when they are done.

  1. This may include new rule sets
  2. This may require the creation of a test suite or specification.

5. Support, and when appropriate, enable better personalization and adaption of content to meet our users' needs. This has the following advantages: (Rich Comment: this is motherhood and apple pie. we need something much more concrete here)

  1. It reduces the effort needed by the author. The author will just need to enable personalization, which is easier then working on issues such as simplification and clarity.
  2. Enables author creativity. Ideally an author could create any interface that they wish, but by enabling API's and personalization, our user groups can receive an adapted interface that is suitable for their needs.
  3. Better accessibility and inclusion. Sometimes, especially with our user groups, user needs can conflict. With adaptability and personalization the interface is personalized to the individuals user needs.

See the discussion on personalization below.

Summary of Issues

Issues with flat design

Taken from:

what it is: Since 2013 Flat design has become a popular UI design pattern characterized by clean flat areas of color, clear typography and simply iconography.

Summary of the problem (with groups):

Many people can not learn easily new design metaphors (most coga groups) or remember things that they learned (such as people with MCI or dementia). Without these skills it can be much harder or impossible to:

  • locate a desired items to interact with and
  • know what interaction may do

Summary of solutions

  1. In the authoring techniques and in proposal for WCAG we are recommending that content provide clear visual affordances
  1. In personalization we are adding settings to allow buttons and controls to have clear affordances
  2. In aria or in the native semantics all roles should be identified

Further work

How to recommend white spaces which can be confusing if over done for people with low visions? How to recommend clear groups

Issues with web security and privacy technologies

Taken from:

what it is: For security purposes, introduction of intentional barriers to task completion.

Summary of the problem (with groups)

Many people (most COGA groups) have memory issues that can make copying text, or remembering passwords, difficult or impossible. Other contributing issues include impaired executive function. Difficult security mechanisms often bar people with cognitive disabilities from accessing content or using a service at all.

Summary of solutions

We recommend a variety of solutions, which may work independently or jointly with others, such as:

Further work

Develop ease-of-use ideas, such as:

  • alternative authentication factors
  • consistent user interfaces
  • plain-language instructions and feedback

Issues with math

Taken from:

Summary of the problem

Numeracy issues can occur due to a range of difficulties, the most severe being the inability to read or understand numbers.

Summary of solutions

  • Move towards digital math that can be extended (not numbers in images)
  • Enable highlighting of sections as they are being discussed
  • Link sections of numbers to extra help that can be read together
  • Enable replacing math sections with words or summaries

Issues with multi-modal content delivery

Taken from:

Text, which comprises the vast majority of content on the Web, is difficult to understand by many people (most COGA groups).

Also, use cases include:

  1. Jumping to the relevant part of content (This is typically not supported, making content less usable.)
  2. Finding pieces in the content once focus is lost
  3. Going back a step when something was not understood
  4. Going back and forth between where a term was explained and the content of focus

Summary of solutions

Text can be made easier to understand when delivered in different modes. Ideally, people should be able to choose that content is delivered in the mode they comprehend best, such as:

  • Text To Speech
  • Video
  • Text With Contextually-Relevant Images
  • Text with Consistent Icons and Graphics
  • Text Replaced or Augmented by Symbol Sets

Further, video and audio should be navigable, such as:

  1. Having the content structured such that it is clearly identified or signposted (e.g., with a slide that says "step two - remove the old washer" or "step three - put on the new washer")
  2. The structure is navigable (e.g., a person can jump directly to step two)
  3. Keywords are identified, and can be jumped to directly
  4. Enabling bookmarks and annotations (that can be navigated)

Further work

Develop ease-of-use ideas, such as development and/or application of:

  • plain-language standards
  • visual and organizational structures
  • font size and font type

Issues with Personalization

Taken from: This summary pulls together a few different issue papers and addresses them together

They are:

What it is: Personalization involves tailoring aspects of the user experience to meet the preferences or needs of the user. Technology holds the promise of being extremely flexible and the design of many systems includes the expectation that users will be able to optimize their interaction experience according to their personal preferences or accessibility requirements (needs).

We need personalization because:

  1. Different user needs can conflict
  2. Learning new design patterns (and widgets) can be confusing - we want to allow users to stick with what works for them
  3. Extra support can be annoying to people who do not need it
  4. Making content predictable is necessary for accessibility but can often be considered boring design
  5. Ability to change levels of complexity (increase or decrease) - As people skills improve or decrease over time or context.
  6. Enable us to really meet the user needs

For example, using a familiar design, terms and symbols is key to being able to use the web for people who can not remember new symbols (such as some people with memory related impairments like dementia). However what is familiar for one user may be new for another. Personalization could include loading a set of symbols that is appropriate for the specific user, ensuring that all users find the design and icons simple and familiar.

(See section References from literature reviews on Dementia and ICT from Peter Cudd)

Summary of the problems and Issues

Preferences for cognitive disabilities

Typical configurable features include adjustments such as colors, text and icon size, sounds or mouse double click speed. Current preference tend to focus on physical needs that help the user use the content and not on cognitive needs and preferences that help the user understand the content. Meta data and ontologies for preferences also currently focus on physical accessibility needs. For our purposes we need the ontologies to support issues such as:

  1. Types of Language support – such as non-literal language or simple language
  2. Types of Help available
  3. Types of graphics and symbols
  4. Api and add on compatibility, such as to help with filling forms or passwords
  5. Adaptable controls for simple and know interfaces
  6. Simplified content with less options
  7. Features to help the user keep and restore context
Setting and gathering preferences

People with cognitive disabilities can be become daunted, or worse, completely unable to select their desired preferences. Indeed depending on the individual and the technology being used it may be impossible with a supporter's assistance.

So specific problems for people with cognitive disabilities include:

  1. Too many settings and/or options for each
  2. Not knowing what their preferences are in terms of the available technical solutions
  3. Not being aware of possible solutions

Inferring Preferences is one solution but the technology is not yet mature. Another issue is multiple devices and applications.

Interoperable personalization schemes. Interoperable personalization schemes are where users want or need products and services to be personalized, they would prefer or need this to happen across the widest possible range of products or services. Personalization schemes that delivers this ideal will only succeed if they are standardized and if that standard is adopted by the widest range of product and service providers. However there are many critical issues for any personalization scheme to resolve such as funding and adoptions.

Current works in progress are GPII ( which is compatible with ISO/IEC 24751,) and ETSI (see , and )

Another issues is Contextual personalization which includes optimizing the personalization of a product or service is to ensure that the personalization is appropriate for the current context of use. For example, settings that will suit the user of a mobile phone in their office or home will not be well suited to that user when they are driving a car.

Metadata is another related topic. Metadata allows the user to find content that they can use and suites their personal needs and preferences. A lot of work has been done for enabling metadata that helps people with physical disabilities find versions of content that they can use. However the semantics and terms do not support the specific requirements of people with different cognitive disabilities.

Summary of solutions for personalization

  1. Promote and support advancements in technologies in these area. For example, our recommending for WCAG will be along the lines of “Use semantics and standardized techniques and that enable the content to be adapted to the user scenario and enable additional support “
  2. Enable compatibility with standards such as GPII but do not depend on them.
  3. Develop the semantics and terms to support the specific requirements of people with different cognitive disabilities.
  4. Enable simple solutions that are extendable - encouraging more complex solutions in the future, such as having preferences being easily cascaded to allow for contextual personalization and for portability in the future .

Solutions and further work

  1. Support in WCAG that encourage support the features of the operating system or standards that enable adaption , such as an additional success criteria.
  2. Devolve supporting techniques so authors know exactly what to do
  3. Encourage or develop the terms or ontology for support for cognitive disabilities so that projects like GPII and ETSI can use them.
  4. Develop Semantics for the content that personalization systems can no more about the content and enable adaptability of the content
  5. Encourage development of at least one end to end solution (critical mass) that make it practical to develop additional solutions that addresses any specific point in the process.
  6. Ensure any solutions architecture protect the user's privacy, such as client side adaptations and metadata that reflect functional requirements only. We also suggest an additional issue paper on related ethics.

End to end basic solution

We need standardized terms and supportive syntax that can be linked to associated symbols, terms, translations and explanations for the individual use, possibly via an aria attribute and personal preferences.

For example, assume an author can make it programmatically known that a button is used to send an email. At at the user end, the button could be rendered with a symbol, term, and/or tooltips that is understandable for this particular user. It could automatically integrate with F1 help that explains the send function in simple terms. It could be identified with a keyboard short cut that will always be used for send. In addition it could be identified as important and always rendered, or rendered as a large button.

Working examples of how this could be used in practice with user preferences are available at This is a project to help personalization for any use - including people with learning and memory issues. It is described more at:

It is made of 4 parts:

  1. JSON files for user setting:
  2. Aria proposal for new syntax: Adaptable Links and Buttons
  3. An HTML page that uses some of the new aria syntax:
  4. Scripts that a web author can use or include that read the user settings in the JSON files and adapt the page for the user needs:

This is only one example way to use the semantics. Others may follow. It is also worth noting that the GPII project is working on making user preferences portable which would also enhance this work.

Special case

Products for people who are non verbal often use symbols to help users communicate. These symbols are in fact peoples' language. Unfortunately many of these symbols are both subject to copyright AND are not interoperable. That means end-users can only use one device, and can not use apps or content from a different company. If we enabled mapping to open sets of symbol codes that, in turn, map to open or proprietary symbol sets, then they can be interoperable. At the user end , the user agent can load the symbols that the user knows. Symbols set might still be proprietary but they would also be interoperable. That means the end use could use them across different devices, or any compatible content or applications.

Our members are working on projects to enable interoperable symbol sets and the semantics that would enable it. Such as (Pseudocode):

<img coga-concept="" scr="girlwithbow.gif" />

This will require

  • incorporating this as a technique for WCAG and
  • build the necessary semantic support, for web language such as aria.

Issues with distractions

Taken from:

Summary of the problem

Distractions can cause people with cognitive disabilities to lose focus on the current action being performed or draw attention away from the primary content and can be difficult for some users to know how to understand, avoid and/or stop them. Distractions can come in the form of overlays, auto-playing content, animated side-bar content, advertisements, prompts, pop-ups, scrolling or auto-updating content and so on.

Summary of solutions

  • Use personalization options to inform inform the content provider of accommodations required so the presentation of content can be modified.

For overlays, pop-up or pop-over windows:

  • Avoid using overlays.
  • Ensure overlays are easy to close.
  • Ensure overlay content is accessible and doesn't interfere with other accommodations made for AT interoperability.
  • Allow user to turn off overlays while still providing equivalent information and functionality.

For Advertisements:

  • Animation, audio and video plays only on user request (not automatically).
  • Clearly mark advertisements as such.
  • Avoid overlaying content with advertisements, or auto-close the advertisement and return the user to the content when complete.
  • Make advertisements easy to close.


  • Make notifications easy to dismiss or opt out of.

Application installation prompts:

  • Should be accessible, clear and easy to dismiss.
  • Confirm with the user if user action would open an external website.
  • Inform the user which is more accessible and customizable - the application or the website.

Integrated solution

Form a cross-application and cross-device distraction matrix that manages all distractions in one setting. In conjunction with this there could be a mechanism for the user to select or modify the distraction matrix to allow distractions only from certain users and/or applications.

Issues with voice menu systems

Taken from:

Summary of the problem

Voice menu systems and Voice XML are used to develop audio and voice response applications similar to automated telephone menu systems. These systems can cause issues for people with cognitive disabilities who may not have the reasoning skills to understand the instructions or have trouble processing the instructions quickly enough while listening to an array of options to choose from. A person with a cognitive disability may have trouble with short-term memory resulting in the inability to remember the number or verbal response required by the application, or may take a longer period of time to verbalize or enter in a response.

Summary of solutions

  • Should have an easily remembered or standard instruction to reach a person for help, such as "0".
  • Describe the option before giving the instruction of what information or option is used to select that option.
  • Use simple terms or language for better comprehension.
  • Pause between phrases, or options, to give time for the user to process the verbal information.
  • Allow more time for the user to provide a response.
  • Provide options for the user to slow down the speech, increase pauses, and allow the user to request more time to respond.
  • Make it easy to go back to a previous menu item, preferably in a standard way, such as '9'.
  • Make it easy to recover from errors, without hanging up on the user, causing them to start from the beginning, or giving even more complex instructions/menus.
  • Avoid advertisements, as they are a distraction that can cause the user further confusion and difficulty remembering options.
  • When designing a voice response system as a product, provide examples and advice that demonstrate how to reduce cognitive load.

Issues with online payments

Taken from:

Summary of the problem

People with various cognitive impairments can have a variety of difficulties with the online payment systems used in e-commerce. These difficulties range from having trouble understanding the instructions and process to be followed to complete a transaction to issues in providing the necessary personal and financial information to make an online payment. If an online payment system requires a lot of user input for required information, the presentation of the input fields could cause a cluttered look, which can be distracting and make it difficult for the user to process the steps to take to complete the transaction, adding to their frustration and stress. If the online payment system has voiced commands, persons with speech perception issues may not be able to fully understand the instructions to respond appropriately.

Summary of solutions

The solutions are split into five categories as follows:

  • Navigation
    • Standardize any controls, features and navigation in the online payment system for consistency.
    • Keep menus short with clear labels and signs.
    • Provide ways to navigate back step-by-step or start over.
    • Provide prompts and feedback on the user's progress, give appropriate help when an error is encountered.
    • Limit the number of options to lower cognitive overload.
  • Functionality
    • Use CSS to provide the user control of how information is presented, such as: font, font size, line height, spaces between lines of text, the size of click/touch areas, mouse-over highlighting of text, changes of background and text colors.
    • Provide user with list of information they need to have ready prior to using the web payment system.
    • Provide definitions and explanations for technical terms, acronyms, etc. used by the web payment system.
    • Keep alerts and feedback on the screen until the user explicitly dismisses them.
    • Provide search capabilities tolerant of misspellings and typos.
    • For users with low-literacy or processing impairments, include speaking text/narration.
  • Content and Text
    • Use plain language and short, concise sentences.
    • Use appropriate graphics to enhance understanding.
    • Place critical content "above the fold" to avoid scrolling, if possible.
    • Use bulleted lists and a single idea per paragraph to make more digestible "chunks" of information.
    • Provide meaningful headings.
    • Avoid full justification of text (left and right margins) which can cause large white areas between words.
    • The line length of text should be less than 70-80 characters.
    • Avoid the use of non-literal text and colloquialisms in the text.
    • For people with memory limitations, reduce the standard 7 ± 2 elements per screen to 4 ± 2.
    • Provide the ability for the user to request longer or shorter content to either increase or decrease details provided.
  • Layout
    • Use a consistent layout for each page or step in the web payment system.
    • Streamline the page and reduce any extra information not key to completing the web transaction.
    • Use plenty of white space for an uncluttered look
    • Highlight urgent or important information to be easier to find.
    • Avoid menus that appear or disappear with mouse hover and text that moves or changes.
    • Use high contrast between text and the background.
  • Multimedia
    • As applicable, use typical accessibility techniques: captions, audio description, subtitles.
    • Use sounds to enhance the visual experience, such as auditory feedback to signal a change of state or completion of an action.
    • Avoid animated graphics which can be distracting, or provide controls to allow the user to adjust the speed of the motion.
    • Use graphics and icons as navigation aids, or to indicate progression through the steps for completing a web payment transaction.

Further work

To do list

Lisa: add techniques solutions and personalization paper, and related pages, flat design, meta data support MJ: Distraction Voice Menu Systems Online Payments John: security, Multi-modal Content Delivery, Numbers and Math

not assigned: web of things (john?)