This is an unpublished draft preview that might include content that is not yet approved. The published website is at

Ian, data entry clerk with autism in Stories of Web Users, How People with Disabilities Use the Web

Accessibility: It's about people

Note: This user story is an example of a person with this type of disability. Other people with this disability may have different experiences.

About Ian

I find it hard to focus on busy pages. For example, lots of animations and videos, particarly ones that start without me doing anything are really frustrating.

Ian is autistic. His autism was identified at an early age because of delays in speech development. Ian received a lot of early childhood support, which helped him develop language and social skills. However, he still experiences some barriers with verbal communication, especially when experiencing anxiety.

Ian works part-time as a data scientist. Working with a computer is easy for Ian, although updates to the data entry application can cause him problems if there are significant changes to the interface. This can cause feelings of axiety for Ian if he doesn’t know the change is coming and given time to adapt. It can also be difficult for Ian if someone asks for some work that causes him to use parts of the system that he is not as familiar with. It is important that systems use a consistent layout and navigation.

Ian finds interacting with colleagues via email easy. He has worked with his team to help them appreciate how using plain language and not introducing new metaphors can help him. Many have said they also prefer less corporate jargon as well.

Ian has his own living space in his parent’s home, including his own kitchen. He has been learning how to cook using online videos. However, vague language, metaphors, and implied content in some of the videos makes them to understand. He finds straightforward, practical, step-by-step videos really helpful. Some of the cooking sites Ian uses have a lot of adverts on them with banners and video, which can be distracting. This is particularly bad if there is audio as well, especially if Ian can’t control it easily. It is best when websites don’t automatically play audio and video adverts, or at least let Ian control them.

Barrier examples

Non-literal text
Barrier: “I have difficulty understanding metaphors, acronyms, abbreviations, and words that aren’t used in their literal sense.”
Works well: “Websites that spell everything out and don’t use metaphors are easier for me to understand.”
Plain language
Barrier: “Sites that use “fancy” language or long sentences to describe a simple concept are hard to understand.”
Works well: “I’m better at understanding the content when the authors just use plain language and simple sentences.”
Consistent layout and navigation
Barrier: “I get confused when I go to a different page on a website and the layout and navigation aren’t the same.”
Works well: “When there is a consistent “look” to the pages on a site, I can learn where things are.”
Heading structure
Barrier: “Long pages that are not broken up into sections are hard to read and understand.”
Works well: “Descriptive headings that are styled like an outline help me to find what I want and better understand the content.”
Moving or blinking content
Barrier: “Moving or blinking content is distracting and I can’t remember what I wanted to do.
Works well: It’s best when sites don’t use moving or blinking content but if they do, let me turn it off.”

Assistive technologies and adaptive strategies used

Video: Ian, data entry clerk with autism

This video is also available on a W3C server: Video: Ian, data entry clerk with autism (file format: MP4, file size: 291MB).

Text Transcript with Description of Visuals

Audio Visual
How people with disabilities use digital technology; Ian, data scientist with autism. How people with disabilities use digital technology; Ian, data scientist with autism.
Hello! I’m Ian. I’m autistic. I work for a software company three bus stops from my home. A man speaks directly to the camera.
I’m a data scientist. I enjoy my work very much. Others find this work difficult because it’s quite technical. But for me, it’s really easy. The man is sitting at a desk using a computer and talking to a woman, standing next to him, about what they can see on the monitor.
Except when something changes and I don’t have enough time to figure out what changed. Like, when I was trying to get to an online meeting and found that the buttons on the app changed. It was very stressful because I was worried about being late to the meeting. Apps that ask for permission before updating allow me to find a suitable time and adjust to the changes. The man is sitting and working at his desk. A software update appears on his computer screen.
Sometimes I press the wrong thing and everything just changes and I don’t know how to go back. It makes me feel like I just can’t cope. I am trying to work, but I just can’t and I start to panic, and then I can’t even talk anymore. It’s very important to me when I can roll back and undo changes that I didn’t intend or expect to happen. The man is participating in an online meeting using a video conferencing app. He alternates between single participant and multiple participant view.
It’s also really frustrating when I have to stop work because of an error message that doesn’t tell me what the error is. Error messages that just say “input error” are so useless. Often it’s something really simple, like I didn’t use the right format for the date. Why doesn’t it say that? The man is working at his desk. He is trying to complete a form and receives an ‘input error’ message.
I love to cook when I’m not working. My friends love to eat what I cook because I find the best recipes! Some cooking websites and apps are easy to use — my favourite recipe sites list the exact ingredients and have step-by-step instructions. It’s easy to find the recipes using the tags and to follow them. The man is preparing food in a kitchen and reading instructions from a tablet.
Unfortunately, I can’t use some recipe sites even though they have recipes I really want to try. Especially the ones where all sorts of videos start playing and pop-up windows appear without me pressing anything. I didn’t ask for this! These are overwhelming and aren’t the recipe. All I want is the recipe! The man is having difficulty reading the instructions because of advertisements and pop-up windows.
Or, some sites use meaningless words and phrases and don’t even bother explaining them. I mean, what is a ‘scant cup of brown sugar’? ‘Scant’ could mean so many different things. Instead of ‘scant’ just say what you mean, like ‘a cooking cup filled just below the top’, or ‘not quite a full cup’. That would be easier to understand for everyone. The man is preparing food in a kitchen and reading instructions from a tablet.
You can help make technology accessible to me. Accessibility: It’s about people. The man speaks directly to the camera.
For more information from the Web Accessibility Initiative on how people with disabilities use digital technology, visit Accessibility: It’s about people;
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This is an unpublished draft preview that might include content that is not yet approved. The published website is at