Impact case studies

Inclusive web design

Improving web design practice to include people with intellectual disabilities in the World Wide Web.

Helen Kennedy, Digital and Visual Cultures, School of Media and Communication

Impact summary

Professor Helen Kennedy’s research project, Inclusive New Media Design (INMD), advanced knowledge and good practice amongst web designers to enable them to improve web accessibility for people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Working with Siobhan Thomas from the University of East London, and research development consultant Thomas and Simon Evans from Cognable R&D Consultancy (, Kennedy led an AHRC/EPSRC ‘Designing for the 21st Century’ funded project from May 2007 to August 2009.

Thirty-one web designers participated in the research and attended nine ID accessibility training workshops. Over the course of the project INMD employed twenty-nine people with ID as testers for a number of websites, some of which were designed by INMD participants.

The research raised awareness about techniques for ID web accessibility amongst web designers. It helped change the practices of web designer participants, enabling them to enhance the ID accessibility of their websites. In addition to advancing expertise and sharing best practice, the project also raised the confidence of people with ID in using the web. 

Underpinning research

INMD was based on the premise that influencing web designers would make the web more accessible for users with ID. It explored the best ways of encouraging web designers to include people with ID amongst their website audiences. It also examined the factors affecting implementation of accessibility guidance and the effectiveness of new and existing guidance encouraging ID accessibility.

The research confirmed a number of potential ID accessibility techniques. These included using images to support text; using large fonts to improve readability; encouraging copy writers to use simple text; and building both rich media and plain text versions of webpages to support accessibility.

Finally, the research outlined a number of actions that would improve web accessibility for people with ID. These included the development of online resource about ID accessibility; including ID guidance within existing accessibility guidelines; engaging ID web users in the design process; and including those with profound ID in the development of research.