Cognitive Bias and Accessibility

Cognitive bias or cognitive distortion and accessibility are two concepts that are often discussed in conjunction with each other. Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that our brains use to process information quickly.

Cognitive bias can affect accessibility in a number of ways. Confirmation biases, for example, are the tendency to seek and interpret information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. This can lead to a failure to consider the needs of persons with disabilities, as individuals believe that only their own experiences and perspectives matter. This can lead to products, services and environments that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities because their needs were not considered during the design process. A typical example are website owners who do not make their website accessible because they do not think they have disabled customers. A pharmacist did not want to make his shop accessible without steps because he had no customers who could not cope with the step. The clue should be obvious: Of course persons who can't climb stairs can't come into his shop.

Another example of how cognitive biases can affect accessibility is the availability heuristic, i.e. the tendency to rely on information that is readily available when making decisions. In the context of accessibility, this can lead to a focus on designing for the most common disabilities, such as the blind, and disregarding the needs of persons with less common disabilities. Incidentally, this also shows that biases can be present not only in non-disabled persons but also in disabled persons.

To counteract these cognitive biases and promote accessibility, it is important to adopt inclusive design practices. Inclusive design is a design approach that takes into account the diversity of users and ensures that products, services and environments are accessible and usable by all. This may include involving persons with disabilities in the design process, using multiple sources of information for decision-making, and conducting accessibility testing throughout the design process.

In summary, cognitive bias and accessibility are two closely related concepts, and addressing cognitive biases is essential for creating inclusive and accessible products, services and environments. By applying inclusive design practices, we can create solutions that meet the needs of all users, regardless of their abilities.

Further Reading

Can Software reduce discrimination