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Web Design and Learning and Cognitive Disabilities

written by: Summer Banks•edited by: Robin L.•updated: 6/15/2009

Web development is all about providing a service to the reader. If that reader has a learning and cognitive disability, the flashy look may not be the best for their reading ease. This article provides tips for ways to increase browsing ease with web design.

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    People with learning and cognition disabilities may have varying challenges that range from memory problems, discernment and understanding. More over, people who suffer from learning disabilities have problems reading and comprehending issues like what happens with dyslexia sufferers. To ensure that such users get maximum benefit from websites, the content should be written in simple and plain language, the layout should have uncomplicated designs, while the navigation should be consistent, clear and without moving content that can impede or disrupt comprehension. Other principles for easy access and easy designs for use by the cognitive or learning challenged people are:

    Consistent Design

    Ensure that all pages in the website have a consistent appearance and feel. The key navigation for all the pages should be located at the same page area. One can also consider color coding the various sections of the website as people with cognition and learning disabilities at times navigate sections that are color coded with ease. Easy navigation can also be achieved from the use of same background colors and banners through out the web pages or within specific sections.

    Give a Site Map

    The provision of a site/location map enables users to grasp the idea of how deep and wide the contents of the website are. In addition, the map gives users the flexibility to navigate to different webpages with reliable ease. Should a user lose track of what he was looking for, he can easily remember what he was looking at by looking at the map.

    Left Align a Sans-Serif Font, Which Should Be Resizable

    To increase legibility for people with cognition or learning disabilities, use sans-serif font in its re-sizable form. Left aligning this font ensures that the text has even spaces and is therefore easy to read. The author of the text should avoid using capitalized or italicized text as this could hamper the readability of the text.

    Provide Error Assistance Messages and Speech Output

    Providing error assistance messages, the user will get ready guidance wherever he/she makes a mistake. A good example of error messages are those that alert the user whenever he/she fails to fill a mandatory form. Some organizations have services that read out the webpage content while highlighting the text being read. This function is of help to users who have problems reading big text amounts. A good example is the Textic organization and the Browse Aloud.

    Provide an Easily Legible Version

    The complex content of the web page should be simplified to cater to the cognition and learning disabled people. The content should combine text and images all meant to aid in information understanding. Such an example is available at the health department publications at

    Use Varying Color Schemes

    People with cognition and learning challenges can benefit from varying color schemes. It would however, benefit the users if the text were highlighted in easy color schemes like a lemon backdrop with the main text being black. On the other hand, a text for use with a dark backdrop should be light colored.

    Learn about the importance of web accessibility for quality web design.

Disabilities and Web Design

Not every Internet user has the same browsing abilities. Some users need special consideration when viewing websites based on physical disabilities.
  1. Disabilities and Web Design - Overview of a Web Development Series
  2. Web Design for the Hearing Impaired
  3. Web Design and Learning and Cognitive Disabilities
  4. Web Design for Physical Disabilities
  5. Web Design and Vision Impairment