The digital landscape has become an integral part of our lives, offering endless possibilities and connections. However, the stark reality is that not everyone can fully participate in this online world. Internet access is a civil right, especially for people with disabilities who make up the largest minority group worldwide (at least 15% of the global population). Among this group, people with learning disabilities often remain hidden and challenging to detect. Currently one in five children have at least one learning impairment, and because they don’t go away with age we also need to consider learning disabilities in adults.

In a world that largely champions equality and inclusivity, digital accessibility should be a given. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) even enshrines it as a legal obligation. But here’s the unfortunate truth: only 3% of the web currently meets accessibility standards. In this blog, first we’ll explore some examples of learning disabilities. Then, we’ll give you some great tools and best practices to make your site accessible for people with learning difficulties

Understanding how people with learning disabilities 

Learning disabilities encompass a wide variety of challenges, making it difficult for people to process, retain, or comprehend information specific to the area of learning. It’s important to note there are differences between learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities (e.g., down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome) and developmental disabilities (e.g., autism, ADHD). People can have combinations of these disability types, but for this blog we’ll focus on impacts to learning disabilities and how to accommodate them. 

Common Learning Disorders Include:

  • Dyslexia: A struggle to connect speech sounds with language, leading to reading difficulties.
  • Dyscalculia: A challenge with math, from the simplest forms to more complex concepts.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder: Difficulty in processing sounds and distinguishing between subtle word variations.
  • Dysgraphia: Affects writing ability, causing issues with spelling, handwriting, and expressing ideas.
  • Nonverbal Learning Disorder: Difficulty comprehending unspoken social cues.
  • Language Processing Disorder: Hindrance in understanding spoken language and expressing ideas.
  • Visual Perceptual and Visual Motor Deficit: Distorted perception of surroundings and visual information.

6 Design Tips to Accomodate People with Learning Disabilities

1. Embrace Empathy: Accessibility is a human right, not just a checkbox. Make it a core part of your web development journey, from inception to execution. It’s not just good business; it’s a step toward a better society.

Example:  Throughout your design process, put yourself in the shoes of someone with a learning disability. Ensure that every image, button, and piece of content is easy to understand.

2. Simplicity: Use familiar terminology and design elements. Underline non-clicked hyperlinks in blue and clicked ones in purple to aid navigation. Choose easily readable fonts for folks with reading related learning impairments.

Example: Instead of using complex jargon, stick to plain language that’s easily understandable. Use headings to break up long sections of text, and ensure that each hyperlink’s purpose is evident from its text alone. This way, someone with a learning disability can effortlessly navigate your site.

3. Clarity: Keep sentences short and paragraphs concise. Use bold, clear images and simple videos.

Example: When explaining a process, opt for short paragraphs and simple sentences to explain each step. Include images or videos demonstrating the process, making it easier for users to follow along. This helps people with learning disabilities grasp information quickly.

4. Seamless Navigation: Opt for an easy-to-navigate design with directional cues, bold headlines, and well-defined design boundaries.

Example: Use contrasting colors to highlight navigation elements and create a logical menu structure. Also use large, easy-to-identify buttons for essential actions, such as “Donate Now” or “Get Involved.” This ensures that users with learning disabilities can smoothly explore your site’s offerings.

5. Be Reachable: Let users know they can seek assistance. Make contact information prominent and accessible.

Example: Instead of burying your contact details, prominently display a “Help” button on each page. When clicked, it should open a contact form or initiate a chat, making it simple for users to seek assistance as they encounter challenges.

6. Personalization is Key: Collaborate with reliable third-party providers offering AI technology. Ensure these tools remain active, allowing users to tailor their experience.

Example: Offer users the option to adjust font sizes, color schemes, and other visual elements to suit their preferences. This empowers people with learning disabilities to tailor their experience for optimal usability.

By incorporating these practical examples into your design approach, you’ll take significant strides toward making your digital platforms more accessible to people with learning disabilities.

UserWay: Bridging the gap for learning disabilities

UserWay is dedicated to making the Internet accessible for everyone. Our AI tools cater to various disabilities, including learning disabilities, to help users read and understand critical online content.

By recognizing the urgency of digital accessibility for people with learning disabilities, we can bridge the gap and ensure that the digital world truly becomes an inclusive space for everyone.  

Common FAQs about digital accessibility

Answers to the FAQs below will help you achieve accessibility and compliance for people with learning disabilities and all other disabilities. 

How can I test site accessibility?

Seek feedback from people with disabilities, including adults with learning disabilities! These insights are invaluable in assessing your website’s accessibility, from conception to implementation.

What’s the core goal of digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility ensures that everyone, regardless of disabilities, can access and interact with online content just like anyone else. It’s about equal access to information and services.

Where can I find guidelines for accessibility?

A good place to start is UserWay University. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is also a fantastic resource.