In our recent post we brought attention to Brain Injury Awareness month, which is this month! We thought we would now highlight the specific ways our world of website accessibility can impact people who have been impacted by a traumatic brain injury.
When you think of the term “website accessibility,” what kind of users do you imagine? Most people would probably first think of users with hearing and vision disabilities. These users might access websites with assistive technologies such as screen readers, and they probably require accommodations such as closed captioningand high-contrast color schemes.
Yet people with motor and cognitive disabilities can also experience difficulties when using the Internet. In fact, they make up the largest population of internet users with disabilities: 14.3 million Americans have some type of mental disability, such as a learning disability, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.
In particular, people with brain injuries face challenges that businesses and website developers aren’t always conscious of.
The Challenges of Brain Injuries
There are many types of brain injuries, and different reasons for each one, from external causes such as car accidents to medical conditions such as strokes or tumors. As a result, each person with a brain injury faces a unique challenge when using websites.
Traumatic brain injuries can manifest themselves as difficulties with six major cognitive functions: memory, problem-solving, attention, verbal comprehension, mathematical comprehension, and visual comprehension.
In terms of internet use, people with brain injuries often take longer to think about their decisions and to recognize and respond to stimuli. They may be more easily distracted by designs or navigational flows that are complicated or cluttered.
Website Accessibility for Brain Injuries
Because no two people with brain injuries have the same needs, website designers and developers should tailor their accessibility efforts toward the widest possible audience. Some of the most important accessibility features for people with brain injuries include:
- Transcripts and closed captions: These features aren’t just for people with hearing disabilities. Due to problems with memory, attention, and language skills, people with brain injuries may have difficulty following a video or audio recording at normal speed. By providing written transcriptions for speech in your multimedia content, users will find it easier to get the information they need.
- No time limits: Placing a time limit on content that doesn’t require it can make it more difficult for people with brain injuries to use your website. Users should be able to turn off these limits, adjust them, or extend them so that they have enough time to complete tasks on your website.
- Help and guidelines: You should strive to make your website’s navigation and design as simple as possible, but people with brain injuries can still experience challenges that you didn’t anticipate. Accessible websites should include ways to help users move throughout your site and find the content they need. This may include adding page titles, sections, and headings, as well as providing text for links and buttons that appropriately describes their purpose.
If you’re interested in making your website more accessible to people with brain injuries, we recommend starting with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. WCAG 2.0 is the most popular set of accessibility standards, and it’s backed by thousands of private organizations as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. Our free scanning tool will compare your website to the WCAG requirements and give you a report on your website's level of compliance. To learn more about the WCAG standards, visit the Bureau of Internet Accessibility's blog for the latest news and events in website accessibility.