Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

A Website Interface Design Framework for the Cognitively Impaired: A Study in the Context of Alzheimer's Disease

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

A Website Interface Design Framework for the Cognitively Impaired: A Study in the Context of Alzheimer's Disease

Article excerpt


Bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium and the US Congress have advanced recommendations intended to make Information Technology more accessible to impaired users. These include guidelines specifically intended for the cognitively challenged, such as people with Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, there is little research evidence to date demonstrating the value of complying with these guidelines. In this paper, we introduce a four-element, theoretical framework and outline a research agenda that identifies important considerations for developers of website interfaces for those with AD. This Website Accessibility Framework may be used as the basis for investigating the impacts of interfaces with differing degrees of guideline compliance, ranging from no compliance to full compliance, on people with AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cognitive impairment; Website accessibility; Web Content Accessibility Guidelines; Website Accessibility Framework

1. Introduction

A critical issue of our times is the welfare of the aging and the aged in society. The US Census Bureau's Census 2000 report estimates that currently there are thirty-five million Americans aged sixty-five and over. This figure is projected to exceed eighty million by the year 2050 when the worker/retiree ratio shrinks to two. With this "graying of America", the treatment and cure of disabilities that arise out of aging have assumed center stage in the medical and policy-making fields. Today, we have several highly focused, well-funded medical research groups concerned with various facets of the diagnosis and treatment of ailments associated with aging. Examples include the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinic Centers and the Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers. Likewise, national policymakers are also cognizant of the importance of this issue as reflected by legislation (e. g., the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2003]) implemented with the aim of safeguarding the interests of older adults.

A particularly debilitating impairment that affects Americans and others worldwide is Alzheimer's disease (AD). The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, established by the National Institute on Aging, estimates that up to 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with AD. This includes about 3 percent of the approximately 18.5 million men and women aged 65-to-74 and nearly half of the about 4.5 million individuals aged 85-and-older (those in the 75-84 age group constitute much of the remainder). Whereas the risk of AD does increase with age, AD is not a normal part of aging. Increasingly, younger individuals - even those as young as 30 - are being diagnosed with "early onset" AD and it is now believed that the disease can be inherited. It is estimated that by the year 2050, more than 14 million Americans - over thrice the current number - will be diagnosed with AD. The socio-economic ramifications are tremendous. Currently, the total annual societal costs attributable to AD are estimated at about $100 billion [President and Fellows of Harvard College 2002]. As of today, there is no effective cure for the disease. The course of the disease and its acceleration vary from person to person. On average, AD patients live from eight to 10 years post diagnosis, although longevity extends to as much as 20 years in some cases. Given this grim scenario and the peculiar features of the disease, it is essential that AD patients receive especially tailored care and facilities to both enhance the quality of care received and their quality of life.

The quantum leaps that have been made in the field of computer, communication, and information technologies and the integral roles that such technologies play in our everyday lives are well established. Consequently, there is emerging interest in harnessing computer-based technologies to further enhance the quality of care provided to Alzheimer' patients (e. …

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