Cognitive impairments and Web 2.0

  • Peter FairweatherEmail author
  • Shari Trewin
Long Paper


This paper illustrates how some of the human–computer interaction patterns associated with Web 2.0 can degrade the user experience of those with particular cognitive disabilities. It also shows how changes to computer technology often do not threaten accessibility directly and immediately, but, rather, indirectly, by spawning new user interaction patterns that compromise access. Web 2.0 interaction pattern technologies, such as mashups, dynamic page updates, social networking and user-created content demand specific perceptual abilities in addition to basic visual and auditory sensation. For example, computer users may have cognitive impairments that affect their abilities to group visual elements into patterns, recognize faces, build effective mental representations of perceptual or conceptual spaces, or retrieve linguistic representations during composition and comprehension. Because of these disabilities, they may find that certain forms of interaction associated with Web 2.0 diminish their access to this critical technology. Similarly, cognitive disabilities that disrupt social interactions may narrow users’ participation in the socially intensive environment of Web 2.0. For areas of cognition that involve perception, social interaction, and critical supporting processes such as attention, the impact of Web 2.0 interaction patterns is discussed, suggesting potential solutions, design guidelines and research needs. The identification and description of the ways particular cognitive disabilities limit access to technology, particularly within the context of new, recently invented patterns of user interaction, underscores the need to extend Web design and development guidelines beyond the domains of sensory and movement disabilities. Designers and developers should learn to recognize how the different ways people think, learn, perceive, or plan can jeopardize access to computers in the same fashion as do the different ways they see, hear, or move.


Accessibility Cognitive impairment Web 2.0 Technology change 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IBM T.J. Watson Research CenterHawthorneUSA

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