How Online Tests Contribute to the Support System for People With Cognitive and Mental Disabilities


Qisheng LiJosephine LeeChristina ZhangKatharina Reinecke


University of Washington


Roughly 1 in 3 people around the world are affected by cognitive or mental disabilities at some point in their lives, yet people often face a variety of barriers when seeking support and receiving diagnosis from healthcare professionals. While prior work found that people with such disabilities assess themselves using online tests and assessments, it remains unknown whether and how effectively these tests fill gaps in healthcare and general support systems. To find out, we interviewed 17 adults with cognitive or mental disabilities about their motivation for and experience using online tests. We learned that online tests act as an important resource that address the shortcomings in support systems for people with professionally diagnosed or suspected cognitive or mental disabilities. In particular, online tests can lower barriers to a professional diagnosis, provide valuable information about the nuances of a disability, and support people in forming a disability identity – an invaluable step towards a positive acceptance of oneself. Our results also uncovered challenges and risks that prevent people with known or suspected health conditions from fully taking advantage of online tests. Based on these findings, we discuss how online tests can be better leveraged to support people with cognitive or mental disabilities before and after professional diagnosis.

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