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What is COGA?

Making Online Content Easier to Understand

2/26/2019 4:37:38 PM

COGA Task Force at the January meeting.

Pictured above:
Back row, left to right – John Rochford, Michael Cooper, Gareth Ford Williams, Steve Lee
Front row, left to right – Glenda Sims, Jamie Knight and Lion (more about Jamie and Lion), Abi James, Lisa Seeman, Janina Sajka, Jennie Delisi, and E.A. Draffan.

People need to know about things from the government. In Minnesota, agencies put this information on the web. The agencies follow the /mnit/government/policies/accessibility/index.jspState Accessibility Standard to make sure web content is easy to use or understand. But people with cognitive disabilities may have trouble using the web. They may not read well, or have trouble with memory. The web accessibility standard does not meet all their needs. We can do more.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative sets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is part of the state standard. This group has a task force called the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force, or COGA. COGA helps people understand why people have trouble using the web. Then they show people how to make it better. They also make suggestions to improve the guidelines. The task force considers many disabilities including:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Autism
  • Acquired cognitive disabilities such as brain injuries
  • Neurologic issues such as dementia
  • Mental health conditions that impact memory and/or executive functioning

These disabilities affect people in different ways. Some people have difficulty with memory. It may be hard to remember things from one screen to the next. They may not remember the numbers needed for a form. Some people get easily distracted. Movement or ads might make it hard to finish a task. Other people may have trouble organizing, planning, or problem solving.

Here’s a simple example. Some passwords require different types of characters: numbers, lower and upper case letters, and symbols. You may get locked out of your account if you enter the wrong password too many times. What if you have trouble typing in numbers or letters correctly? You may confuse letters like b and d. What if you forget where you store your password reminders? You can try to reset your password, but what if you have trouble understanding and following the directions? These types of barriers can keep people from completing a timecard at work, logging into their bank, or paying their bills.

Thirteen COGA members and experts from around the world met in January. They reviewed the work COGA has done, and planned the work for next year. They discussed submitting new success criteria if a new guideline is published. They updated a document about the need for new technologies and techniques.

Presenters informed the group about the future of accessibility guidelines. The new rules are called AG or Silver, because they are likely to drop the “WC” from the name “WCAG.” Other presenters were from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

The COGA group meets weekly using remote meeting programs. There are several ways you can follow their work:

  • Review their publications. They are updating documents like the Cognitive Accessibility Roadmap and Gap Analysis. The date of each draft is included at the top of each document.
  • Going to a conference? Look for members of the COGA task force that may be presenting.
  • Follow along on social media. The hashtag #COGA is used by group members when posting research, updates, and upcoming presentations.
The COGA task force would like to thank the W3C UK and Ireland office who provided all the support for the meeting and arranged the funding to cover on-site meeting costs.

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