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Supporting neurodiversity in content and usability

Supporting neurodiversity in content and usability

Presented at HighEdWeb 2021.


Amy Grace Wells

October 05, 2021


  1. Supporting neurodiversity in content and usability Amy Grace Wells Senior

    Content Designer, 10up @amygracewells
  2. Hi. I’m Amy and I have ADHD.

  3. What is Neurodivergence? The current concept of neurodiversity has a

    basis in science. Neurodiversity is the term used to describe natural variations in the human brain. We know from brain-imaging studies that there are some differences in thinking, learning, mood, attention, sociability, and other mental functions. Those differences appear in how the brain is “wired” and how it functions to support thinking and learning. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  4. The Neurodivergent Spectrum The conditions of ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, and

    Dyslexia generally make up Neurodiversity, but this is expanding as more is understood. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  5. 20% 0f users may be neurodiverse @amygracewells #HEWeb21

  6. Disclaimer While there are common traits across the spectrum, each

    person with neurodivergence will experience it differently. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  7. Some Neurodivergent Challenges Fewer dopamine receptors Sensory sensitivities Task initiation

    Time blindness Executive dysfunction The ADHD tax Processing delays or difficulty @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  8. More Neurodivergent Challenges Easily overwhelmed Working memory Decision paralysis Reading

    comprehension Processing on-screen information Communication @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  9. Accessibility Requirements Current cognitive accessibility requirements for compliance use existing

    standards. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  10. Cognitive Accessibility in W3C Standards Existing and developing standards from

    the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) address many aspects of cognitive accessibility. These include: • Guideline 1.3 Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure. • Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background. • Guideline 2.2 Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content. • Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are. • Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable. • Guideline 3.2 Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways. • Guideline 3.3 Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes. https://www.w3.org/WAI/cognitive/ @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  11. Supplemental Guidance: Content Usable The “Making Content Usable for People

    with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities” document is an informative Working Group Note (not a W3C standard). It provides “supplemental guidance” beyond the requirements of WCAG 2. It is not required for conformance to WCAG. https://www.w3.org/TR/coga-usable/ @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  12. Hi. I want to create a neurodiverse-friendly website. @amygracewells #HEWeb21

  13. Understand that our brains may not physically be able to

    match requirements. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  14. Include ND in Research and Testing Take the time to

    recruit neurodiverse participants. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  15. Recruit Neurodiverse Users Provide a question or space for them

    to self-identify as neurodivergent. Define the term, but don’t ask for specific diagnosis unless absolutely required. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  16. Recruit Neurodiverse Users Don’t single out their neurodivergence/ disability during

    the test, but ask questions about: ◦ Were there areas/steps that tested their focus and attention? Was anything distracting? ◦ Was anything difficult to understand or process? ◦ Did anything require them to use memory to complete? (i.e. info from previous steps or external communications like email) @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  17. Digital Accessibility Items to look at now These items can

    make your digital properties more ND friendly now. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  18. Easier ways to log in • Ensure there are multiple

    ways to get any 2FA • Think about how many password requirements there are or time-based password updates • Make sure password fields support pasting • Use accessible CAPTCHAs • Support magic link functionality or SSO @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  19. Set Expectations early and often • Add required documents or

    information needed in list form before they must commit. Bonus if it can be a downloadable checklist. • Provide time estimates and how many steps/pages are required. • Communicate the “why” along the way. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  20. Reconsider Time Limits • Allow users to extend time for

    things like event registrations with limited time to complete. • Consider automatic log-off or inactive alerts to prevent distractions. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  21. Provide ability to save progress and return later • Particularly

    for long or multi-step tasks. • Even better if the system could email them a link to pick up where they left off. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  22. Make decision making easier • Limit options to decrease the

    likelihood of cognitive overload. • Provide context or helper text to help users differentiate between or better understand options. • Make calls-to-action clear and unmistakable. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  23. Avoid distractions • Use one-column layouts to limit sidebar distractions.

    • Don’t introduce related content or additional steps/options until the current task is complete.
  24. Always provide feedback for actions • Always provide success or

    feedback messages for tasks. • Help users avoid and fix mistakes. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  25. Ask about communication preferences and honor them • Allow users

    multiple ways to get updates including text, physical mail and alternate emails. • Provide contact information in email or physical mail. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  26. Make it easy to get help and support • Sometimes

    it may be easier to talk through a task or do it in a location with another person. • Make it easy for them to reach an actual human. Provide prompt numbers if needed. • Communicate with staff on how they can support accessibility and neurodiversity if they receive a call. @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  27. Reading list • https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US /docs/Web/Accessibility/Cognitive_a ccessibility#overview • https://www.w3.org/WAI/people-use-w eb/abilities-barriers/#cognitive •

    https://w3c.github.io/coga/issue-pa pers/ • https://uxdesign.cc/adhd-dyslexic-p erspective-on-cognitive-accessibili ty-using-cognitive-ux-design-princi ples-f46349a609d6 • https://today.design/news/neurodive rsity-and-the-digital-divide-how-ou r-neurological-differences-shape-th e-way-we-experience-the-web @amygracewells #HEWeb21
  28. Thanks. amygrace.wells@10up.com