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Access denied: Exploring web accessibility standards and their implications for users with cognitive impairments

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posted on 23.05.2021, 14:15 by Matthew Mendonca
This Major Research Paper (MRP) explores the language and conceptual organization of the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines, a universal web accessibility document that aims to guide the development of accessible websites for users with sensory, motor and cognitive disabilities. This MRP attempts to bridge the gap between the study of user behaviours of individuals with cognitive impairments and the language and prioritization schema WCAG 2.0 uses to address accessibility. A structured literature review of contemporary usability studies involving users with cognitive impairments identifies web-relevant behaviours unique to these users and provides a rudimentary introduction to the online barriers they face. A qualitative content analysis reveals, in depth, how the language and conceptual organization of WCAG 2.0 frame cognitive impairments as less important than sensory impairments. Barriers for users with cognitive impairments are less frequently addressed, and when they are, they are often given a level AAA priority designation, the least essential priority according to the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. Individual criteria are further analyzed in the Discussion, where the themes and results of the content analysis culminate in recommendations for web developers.





Master of Professional Communication


Professional Communication

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type