Last week our team met with Kyle Boatsman from the university accessibility office to review our development copy of the new university website and identify any weak spots. While talking to Kyle we learned something interesting that I had never heard before, and which I think is very important for our development projects.
Kyle mentioned that the campus Disability Services office gets more requests for help from people with cognitive impairments than any other type of disability. While this is a known audience for accessibility remediation, we (and I think most web developers) have always thought of vision as the most important accessibility issue to design for.
The key to making sites accessible to people with cognitive impairments is to make content easy to find. The biggest challenge for these users (and the nature of most of their requests to Disability Services) is locating content on the site.
This, then, draws accessibility and usability even more in line with one another. It also has implications for site design. We need to make sure that our most important content is identified and easy to find on the page. Pages should be easy to read and navigate. It may also mean that we reconsider extraordinarily long-scroll pages with multiple areas of content.
Luckily we had already embraced these principles from a usability standpoint, so the new design is in good shape accessibility-wise as well. This is a good example, though, to show that what we consider general good practices often have a more specific importance than we might realize.
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