Proposal for New Accessibility Testing in User Interfaces for Users with ADHD; How Technology Can Accommodate Neurodivergent People

Shropshire, Annabel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Neurodivergence, including conditions such as ADHD, Autism, and Dyslexia, are increasingly common in our society, yet technology fails to fully accommodate people with these disabilities. The technical topic explores this lack of accessibility through the lens of testing protocol of user interfaces as they specifically pertain to people with ADHD. There is currently a lack of understanding of how to include neurological disabilities, in addition to physical disabilities, in these accessibility requirements largely due to limited research. The science, technology, and society (STS) portion of this paper covers how technology can better accommodate neurodivergent people by analyzing different factors that contribute to this issue. The STS and technical topics are tightly coupled, covering both the root of this accessibility issue as well as the steps to begin to resolve the problem.
The technical report proposes a reconstruction and reevaluation of existing requirements, guidelines, and other factors that affect users with ADHD. Because ADHD is so prevalent, it is crucial that technology adapts to the needs of the users in order to provide an equitable experience. By including ADHD in testing protocols of user interfaces there is a greater capacity for many different types of neurodivergence to be included in technology as a whole.
Current protocol affecting neurodivergent users include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Neilson’s 10 Heuristics. Many of these guidelines and requirements focus on adaptive technologies specifically for physical disabilities, however, these existing technologies can be modified to include people with ADHD. The major issue is that there is not legislation to support this movement towards inclusion of neurodivergent people, and it is unlikely that major change will happen without stricter requirements being placed on companies and their developers.
This issue of accessibility in user interfaces implies a larger issue: how can technology as a whole better accommodate neurodivergent people? A lack of inclusion is a common theme within the development of all technology, and the conversation surrounding inclusivity is generally limited to physical disabilities. Additionally, there is a lack of resources on neurodivergence in STS journals. However, the impact of COVID-19 on education forced a discussion on technology accessibility. In order to better evaluate the complexity of this issue, as well as the different impacts of actions by each actor, Callon and Law’s Actor-Network Theory was employed.
By examining the field of education as a sample of technology, it became obvious that there is a lack of adequate technical infrastructure to support people with disabilities. This problem is only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is currently research into Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), which is an STS effort to encourage engineers to consider the implications of their work. It is important to educate engineers on neurodivergence and adaptive technologies, and a crucial part of this is promoting RRI and awareness surrounding neurodivergence. Often times technology resists change as it is expensive and difficult to update, but it is imperative that neurodivergent people are included in technology development.
Engineers have a responsibility to make technology accessible for people with different types of disabilities, including neurodivergence. However, there are many changes necessary in order to achieve inclusivity and accessibility. These changes should include stricter requirements on conformance to the WCAG, specific standards for different types and symptoms of neurodivergence, and educating developers on the importance of inclusivity.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor-Network Theory, Neurodivergence, Usability, User Interface

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Daniel Graham
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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