This Wiki page is edited by participants of the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Task Force participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.

“ten tips”

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Here are our top ten tips for making content useable by people with age-appropriate forgetfulness, and cognitive and learning disabilities!

Note: these tips are part of our Getting Started guide.

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    1. Help users understand what things are and how to use them. This often involves using things that are familiar to the user so that they do not have to learn new symbols, terms or design patterns. People with cognitive disabilities often need predictable behaviour and design patterns. For example, they may know the standard convention for hyperlinks (underlined and blue for unvisited; purple for visited).

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    2. Help users find what they need. Navigating the system should be easy. The layout should be clear and easy to follow with good visual cues like symbols. Using clear headings, boundaries and regions also help let people understand the page design.

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    3. Use clear and understandable text and images. This includes easy words, short sentences and blocks of text, clear images, and easy to understand video.

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    4. Provide support for different ways to understand content. Graphics, summaries of long documents, adding icons to headings and links and alternatives for numbers are all examples of extra help and support.

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    5. Help users avoid mistakes. A good design will make errors less likely. Do not ask the user for more things then you need! When errors do occur the user should find it easy to correct them.

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    6. Help users to maintain focus. Avoid distracting the user from their task. If they do get distracted, headings and breadcrumbs can help orientate the user and help the user restore the context when it is lost. (Making breadcrumbs clickable can also help the user undo mistakes.)

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    7. Ensure processes do not rely on memory. Avoid memory barriers that stop people with cognitive disabilities from using content. This includes long passwords to log in and voice menus that involve remembering a specific number or term. Make sure there is an easier option for people who need it.

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    8. Make it easy to get human help and give feedback. If users have difficulty sending feedback then you will not know if they are able to use the content or when they are experiencing problems.

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    9. Support adaptation and personalization. People with cognitive disabilities are often using add-ons or extensions as assistive technology. Sometimes, extra support which we can provide with minimal effort from the user via personalization that allows the user to select preferred options from a set of alternatives. Support personalization when you can. Do not disable add-ons and extensions!

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    10. Test with real users! Persons with disabilities can participate in the design and development process. This also includes research that has something to do with them. They're the experts in what works for them. This can involve including people with cognitive and learning disabilities in:
    • focus groups
    • usability tests
    • the design and research team.

For a set of detailed actionable Design Patterns see our Design Guide in Making Content Usable.