Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Second Advisor

Tom Yeh

Third Advisor

Shaun Kane

Fourth Advisor

Shea Tanis

Fifth Advisor

Cathy Bodine

Abstract

Worldwide, around 630 million individuals with cognitive disabilities have different challenges that can reduce the benefit of using the internet and searching for information. This dissertation developed and evaluated accessible web-searching training lessons to improve the web-searching skills of students with cognitive disabilities. The focus of the research was on improving the functional capabilities of the participants by providing supported search tools like voice searching and images in search results in addition to typing. A purposive sample of 19 volunteer students with a variety of cognitive disabilities were grouped into three functional groups (beginner, intermediate and advanced) by teachers from a special needs school. Pre- and post-web searching tasks along with a follow-up study after the training were conducted by the teachers, and grids from the Repertory Grids Technique (RGT) were collected. The lessons were created in collaboration with the teachers at the special needs school using the Google search Education Lessons as a basis, and consisted of teachers' instructions for group lessons and handouts for students. Significant differences between pre- and post-scores were found, and participants reported an improvement in their ability to search in their RGT grids. Additionally, a follow-up assessment showed a significant difference in pre- and post-scores and demonstrated that participants retained web searching skills. Recommendations were created to guide researchers, teachers, web developers, and accessibility experts. The results of this research indicated that it was possible for students with cognitive disabilities to improve their web searching skills when they received training from their teachers with the use of accessible web searching handouts.

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