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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Provide Alternatives for Numerical Concepts

User Need

I need words rather than numbers and numerical concepts.

Provide alternatives for numbers and numerical concepts.

What to Do

Provide alternatives for numbers and numerical concepts.

How it Helps

Not all people can understand numbers and numerical concepts.

For example, some people have dyscalculia, a learning disability specifically-related to mathematics. People with dyscalculia have significant problems with numbers and mathematical concepts, but often excel in other intellectual areas.

For example, a user with dyscalculia may have difficulty processing temperature data when presented only in a numeric format. However, if non-numeric alternatives are provided (cold, warm, hot etc.) then they are able to understand the content.

Numeracy issues can occur due to a range of disabilities, the most severe being the inability to read or understand numbers. Other people have challenges with any calculations such as relative sizes or times.

For example, a user may understand the concept of 90cms as a length but find it hard to cope with the fact that 0.9m and 900mm are the same length.

In another example, a train schedule has a list of relative times that the train leaves on the hour. The user cannot calculate when the next train leaves from their location.

More Details

Where an understanding of mathematics is not a primary requirement for using this content use one of the following:

  • Reinforce numbers with non-numerical concepts, e.g., very cold, cold, cool, mild, warm, hot, very hot.
  • Once it is mature you can also use personalization semantics to add non-numerical concepts. See [[personalization-semantics-help-1.0]].

Note that other users may find math easier to understand than long text.

Where some math skills are essential for the content:

  • Move towards digital math that can be extended (not numbers in images).
  • Enable highlighting of sections as they are being discussed.
  • Link sections of numbers to extra help that can be read together.
  • Enable replacing math sections with words or summaries for users who prefer this.


  1. Extra support for numerical content such as:
    • sizes
    • quantity
    • distance
    • time
    • date
    • temperature
    • positive/negative
    • calculations
    • sequencing
    • percentages.

    For the above, there is a description or representation of what the number means as a concept.


  1. Numerical content without extra support

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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