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.

Getting started

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This page provides quick actionable tips for get started in improving content for access by people with Cognitive and Learning disabilities.

The problem

Often people with cognitive and learning disabilities or age-related forgetfulness may not be able to effectively use web content because of the design and content choices of the author.

For example, guidance about COVID-19 is critical to reducing the effect of the pandemic. The elderly and vulnerable population are among the most critical groups for these communications but studies have shown that the usability of web and phone communication for these groups is low. Vulnerable people are trying to reach hotlines for COVID-19 and find online information and not managing, because of known accessibility and usability issues for these groups.

Urgent content

Do you have urgent or essential content that needs to be published yesterday? This should help you get started.


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1. Basic useability

Take a small amount of time to check if the design is usable by everyone


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2. Give clear information

Give concrete information, in simple plain language. This might include:

  • Timelines, are delays expected? What happens next? For example, if an online shop may be delayed, then people may need advice on planning ahead and what to do now.
  • Identify the best place to get information, and who is telling you.
  • Who is the authority for their geographic area. How to reach them.
  • How to get more help

Try to give the information needed, but not more.


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3. Set up useable feedback channels

If groups of people can not give feedback you will never know if they can use your content! Set up useable feedback channels for complaints and support requests from vulnerable people (such as the ageing, and people with learning and cognitive impairment). Promote the channels.

Make sure there is a process for dealing with complaints and feedback quickly that makes the user feel better and addresses their problem. Monitor this!

Feedback mechanisms must be really easy to use. For example:

  • Use simple clear language and short chunks of text, separated with white space
  • Add symbols such as a telephone next to the telephone number
  • Email addresses should open the email application, and phone numbers should dial on a click and take you to a human operator (many vulnerable people can not manage to navigate voice menu systems)

Test feedback channels are really easy to use! For example, check that real users can quickly and easily get through the process of finding the information they need and giving feedback and asking for more help. For example, test with:

  • People with age-related forgetfulness
  • People with communication disabilities
  • People with "chemo brain"
  • Also test with people with physical disabilities, such as a screen reader user.

For more on testing see our full guidance


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4. Start to involve users and user needs in the processes ongoing. (Inlcuding users with age-apprioriate forgetfulness and learning and cognitive impairments.)

  • This includes focus groups, design teams, stakeholders on advisory board. Encourage accountability for inclusion.
  • Start using our full guidance