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We're all different. Different size, shape, hair color, physical ability, and cognitive strengths. Cognitive accessibility means that anyone can access your site regardless of their cognitive strengths or challenges. This is not just about profound cognitive challenges but also about things like basic stress, exploring a website in a second language, living with anxiety, raising a newborn, societal upheaval, age-related cognitive decline. (Think about how many seniors have been unable to obtain COVID vaccines for themselves.)

UX/UI should work with cognitive strengths, not just filling in gaps. Don't just remove barriers - find out what's exceptional about people and work to benefit those things.

Resources for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, based on COGA guidance from WCAG:

  • Clearly group related elements so it's easy to tell what goes with what
  • Only show people what they need when they need it - hide irrelevant info
  • Make sure controls are easy to understand
  • Avoid big open-ended text fields - design forms so that each input is very clear and specific
  • Avoid icons - they are very culturally specific...especially if you have trouble figuring out what icon should represent an intangible idea, don't use that
  • Let people know up front what they'll need in order to do a task - e.g., "Before you continue, you will need: * Your name * Your email address * Your netID"
  • Help users avoid or correct mistakes
  • Auto-save drafts
  • Help users stay focused
  • Make sure you don't rely on the user's memory - keep them anchored throughout a process so they know immediately what they've done and what's yet to do
  • Provide help and support - provide clear paths to human contact for help
  • Do put up a speedbump any time the user is able to delete or clear something
  • Support adaptation and personalization - do not lock users into anything from font size to how links open - allow them to do what's best for them

Slides available at (will need to request access)