Neurodiversity describes the idea that people work with the world around them in different ways. There is no one right way of thinking or behaving, and the differences need not be viewed as deficits. Neurodiversity also recognizes that different neurological profiles can bring unique perspectives and talents to the world. There are other neuro-variations, such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.
About 15–20 percent of the population is neurodiverse. This includes up to 10 percent of people who are diagnosed with dyslexia, 6 percent with dyspraxia, 5 percent with ADHD and 1–2 percent with autism.
In this article, we will understand Neurodiversity with a deeper understanding and what it means for your website.
Importance of Digital Accessibility
Digital accessibility lays emphasis on equal rights to access any digital product, without any discrimination. The World Health Organization has estimated that over 15 percent of the world’s population have a disability, thus making it the largest minority group, globally.
Some of the key reasons why digital accessibility is important:
- Legal Compliance: In many countries, including the United States, laws require digital content and technology to be accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal action, fines, and damage to a company’s reputation.
- Social Responsibility: Ensuring digital accessibility is an important social responsibility to promote inclusion and reduce discrimination against people with disabilities.
- Business Benefits: Digital accessibility can also bring many benefits to businesses, including expanded market reach, and improved brand reputation.
- Human Rights: Digital accessibility is also important from a human rights perspective. People with disabilities have the right to access information and technology on an equal basis with others.
Relationship between Digital Accessibility and Neurodiversity
Digital accessibility refers to the design of digital technologies and services that are accessible and usable by people with disabilities, including those with visual, auditory, physical, or cognitive impairments.
Digital accessibility for people with neurological differences can enable them to access and use digital technologies effectively. Example, people with autism may have sensory processing differences that require certain design features to be incorporated into digital products to make them usable.
Digital accessibility and neurodiversity can also benefit businesses and organizations. By designing products and services that are accessible and usable by a wider range of people, businesses can reach a larger market and improve customer satisfaction.
Now that we have a fair understanding of Digital Accessibility and Neurodiversity is, let us delve into the different neurodivergent conditions.
Neurodiversity is a condition where the way people think or behave differently. And here are some of the conditions that are most common among those who describe themselves as neurodivergent include:
- Autism spectrum disorder (this includes what was once known as Asperger’s syndrome).
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Dyslexia (difficulty with reading).
- Dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination).
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by a difference in the child’s brain. People with ASD may behave, interact and learn in ways different from other people. Some of the other difficulties include:
- Delayed or absent language development
- Trouble in understanding facial expressions and eye contact
- Sensory aversions, like loud noises
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic brain condition that disrupts a person’s ability to manage his/her emotions, thoughts and actions Some of the other difficulties include:
- Following directions
- Sitting Still
- Paying attention
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes reading and language-related tasks harder. The brain has trouble processing what one reads, especially breaking words into sounds or relating letters to sounds when reading. Some of the Other difficulties include:
- Slow reading due to difficulty in processing words
- Difficulties with writing and spelling
- Trouble forming sentences to communicate complex ideas
Dysgraphia is a neurological condition when someone has difficulty with turning their thoughts into written language, despite exposure to adequate instruction and education. Some of the other difficulties include:
- Language recognition
- Conceptualization of a complex subjects
- Organization of their thoughts
Neurodiverse people and advantages
Neurodiverse people due to their different way of thinking may bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value.
Hyperfocus: Neurodiverse people focus deeply on a given task and pay attention to detail to the level of achieving expertise.
Pattern Recognition: People with dyslexia understand and spot patterns in information and this may be helpful in understanding content.
Memory: Some neurodiverse people have exceptional memories which helps them store information they read.
However, the lack of access due to digital accessibility will hinder their ability to use digital products. Inclusive design is paramount to include neurodiverse users to your customer base.
Inclusive design describes methodologies to create products for users of all kinds despite their disabilities. Digital interfaces should prioritize impacting positively on the user experience to foster a sense of belonging.
About 15 percent of the world’s population have disabilities. By 2050 this number is expected to rise to 900 million, or close to 1 in 10 people. These are huge numbers who need supplying products and services.
Advantages for businesses to include inclusive design
Customer Engagement: Engagement with a product increases when it is easy to use and is inclusive for most people.
Large customer base: The customer base increases if the inclusive design is done right and people with disabilities can access your products.
Innovation: A shift in perspective to support inclusion can lead to innovation.
But how does one make their website inclusive? Check out our website accessibility reviews across several areas of website accessibilty.
WCAG principles for Neurodiverse users
Here are some of the WCAG principles:
Readable and understandable:
Users are able to comprehend complex words when text is read aloud or key processes and ideas are illustrated visually or as sign language. Certain cases when meaning cannot be determined without pronunciation, pronunciation information must be available as well.
Users must be able to control audio. There should be a way to pause or stop any audio that automatically plays for more than three seconds. This also benefits people who use screen readers so they won’t have sound interfering with what’s being read aloud.
Turn off time limits, or at least offer the option to extend a time limit. Regardless of the type of disability, difference, or functional need, users should complete tasks without unexpected changes in content or context caused by a time limit.
Pause, Stop, Hide:
WCAG allows for five seconds of automatic moving content to catch someone’s attention. Beyond this, users should have the ability to pause, stop, or hide it. For example, Blinking advertisements, scrolling news updates, and gifs can be very distracting for people with ADHD and autism, and this success criterion puts limits/controls on that content.
A website should not automatically change just because a user inputs text, checks a box, or navigates down a drop-down box. People with ADHD and autism expect predictability. Example, if you’re making an online purchase and check the box to indicate that your credit card and shipping address are the same, that action should not cause the purchase to go through.
Navigation menu placement and order must be consistent. Users understand the order of links and where the search bars and skip navigation links are located. This is all about predictability in navigation, which increases accessibility for users especially people with autism, ADHD.
Page components (example links and icons) that have the same functionality should not only appear in the same place consistently. Example, buttons within a series of pages might be labeled “Go to Page 4” and “Go to Page 5.” Note that this is consistent but not identical.
Create content with a simpler layout. The content should be rendered in a way that is understood by users. Example, If the information is available in a form that can be determined by software, then it can be presented to users in different ways such as visually, audibly, tactilely etc.
Distinguish foreground from background. For visual presentation, make sure that the colors in the foreground and background are contracting. Make sure the colors used are easily palatable for neurodiverse users. For audio presentations, make sure that the foreground and background music are discernable.
In conclusion, digital accessibility is important for neuro-diverse users as they possess a skill set unique to them, and they are the largest minority group – 15% of the population. Also, advantages such as their perception skills due to their different thinking ability will be a boon for any organization they are a part of.