Autistic Spectrum Disorders

According to the World Health Organisation Autistic spectrum disorders are a diverse group of conditions. They may be characterised by the following:

  • Some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication.
  • Difficulty with transition from one activity to another
  • A focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations.

It is estimated that 1 in 100 people in the UK is on the autistic spectrum and it is known to be 4 times more prevalent in males than females

In terms of accessibility people on the autistic spectrum may have difficulty with:

  • Heightened sensory awareness. People on the autistic spectrum may struggle with cluttered and busy online content. Content providers could either avoid producing content in this style or also provide the content in an additional simple and plainer style and allow viewers to access this on a different page.


  • Heightened sensitivity to bright colours and high contrast. Content providers could either avoid bright colours and extremely high contrasts or provide simpler, plainer versions of the content on another page.


  • Stylised and difficult to read fonts.  People on the autistic spectrum may benefit from the simple accessible fonts described earlier in the training.


  • Unclear or no instructions where instructions might be required


  • Text which uses figures of speech or idioms.  People on the autistic spectrum can think very literally and may not pick up on literary devices such as sarcasm which they may take literally. For the purposes of accessibility plain, to he point text is better.


  • Content which might be unpredictable. For example buttons which are not clearly marked as to what they do or menu systems which are not clear about where their elements go. People on the autistic spectrum tend to prefer predictability so will benefit from clearly marked on-screen elements and content which follows predictable patterns.

As an example of good accessibility The National Autistic Society have an exemplary website which includes a software package called Recite Me.  Recite Me puts a toolbar on the top of the page which allows visitors to the site to change the colour scheme, change the fonts and their size, change the contrast, access a built-in screen reader, access a magnifying glass, access a built-in dictionary and change the page to plain text only amongst other functions. I would recommend visiting their website (link in additional info page) just to see this fairly impressive software suite at work.