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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Provide Reminders

User Need

I need reminders integrated into my calendar, otherwise I will forget appointments and when I am meant to do things. Sometimes I need reminders to revisit a web site to complete the next task.

What to Do

Make it easy for the user to set a reminder for date and time sensitive events. Use standard application programming interfaces (APIs) when possible.

Reminders must be set only at the user’s request and the user must be able to personalize the remainder method.

How it Helps

People with cognitive and learning disabilities often have challenges managing events and time. (In fact, being unable to correctly manage events and time without support is a diagnostic criterion for some groups of disabilities.) This results in missing meetings, not submitting a request by a certain date or a form within a specified time period and missed opportunities. For example:

  • When the user copies information into a calendar they often copy the day or time incorrectly.
  • The user is challenged processing and retaining time based information.
  • The user may find it hard to sequence time-bound events.
  • The user’s skills decrease when tired to such an extent that they have to stop a task. They may wish to reschedule the task.

Using calendar APIs (or task manager) that allow the user to automatically add events and deadlines to their own calendar can help.

For example, a user with a cognitive and learning disability sets a doctor’s appointment online. Often they copy the details incorrectly into their calendar. However, in this case, the web site gives them an option to add the appointment to the calendar and sets a reminder an hour before. The user now comes to the correct place at the correct time with the correct papers.

The benefit to users with cognitive accessibility needs is that they can independently manage appointments, deadlines, and schedules. The ability to set reminders can reduce the cognitive load associated when processing time bound tasks. Time dependent activities may be monitored and tracked by the user to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.

Always give the option to set a reminder at the end of the task so that the user does not get interrupted.

It is essential not to add unwanted reminders, as this makes the user’s calendar too full. This can even prevent them from being able to use their calendar at all. The user is the best person to know how many reminders, and which type, will best meet their needs.

More Details

Where a standard mechanism exists for the platform or technologies, it must be used. See:

Date and time sensitive events are any event that has to be completed by a certain time. The time constraints on such an event may be defined by a calendar date and time or by the total elapsed time.

Variables that could be considered include:

  • Time - at a logical time.
  • Location - prompted when at an appropriate location.
  • Context - on computer vs. mobile, on specific a site, etc.



  1. Options for the user to add the event to their calendar and set a reminder. For example:
    • A health care site allows you to set a local medical appointment. Once the appointment is set the user is given the option to add it to their calendar (automatically) with a reminder three hours before. They are also given the option to add or edit the reminder.


  1. Events that are added to the user’s calendar that the user does not want to attend.
  2. The user cannot automatically add the events and appointments they just set to their calendar. For example:
    • A health care site allows you to set a local medical appointment. The user is not given the option to automatically add it to their calendar or set a reminder.

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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