Cognitive Accessibility at W3C

About Accessibility for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities

Cognitive and learning disabilities impact how people process information. For example, they can affect people’s perception, memory, language, attention, problem solving, and comprehension. Terminology for categories and conditions varies, and includes intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dementia, dyslexia, and more.

Technology provides opportunities for people to interact with content and to process information in ways that are more usable to them. For example, people can:

There are many things that designers and developers can do to:

Specific examples of cognitive and learning disabilities and examples of accessibility barriers are in this section of “How People with Disabilities Use the Web: Diverse Abilities and Barriers”: Cognitive and learning.

Cognitive Accessibility in W3C Standards

Existing and developing standards from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) address many aspects of cognitive accessibility. For example, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) includes requirements that address cognitive accessibility. The requirements (called “success criteria”) are in these and other guidelines:

Additional guidance on cognitive accessibility is included in the WCAG Understanding documents and Techniques, including Advisory Techniques. These documents are introduced in a section of the WCAG Overview: What is in the WCAG 2 Documents.

Additional Support for Cognitive Accessibility

Some cognitive accessibility user needs are not addressed in existing W3C standards.

W3C is actively working to provide additional guidance on cognitive accessibility, including:

Supplemental Guidance

Supplemental guidance provides additional ways to improve accessibility beyond what is required by WCAG 2. Following the guidance is not required to meet WCAG.

We encourage you to follow the guidance to meet more user needs. The accessibility issues addressed in this guidance are essential for people with certain disabilities to be able to use digital technology.

Cognitive Accessibility Guidance in Supplemental Guidance to WCAG 2 provides brief “Objectives” and “Design Patterns” that include:

Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities (“Content Usable”) is a much longer document. It is an informative Working Group Note (not a W3C standard). It includes:

We welcome comments for the next version of Content Usable. To comment, please open a new issue in the COGA GitHub repository or send comments in e-mail to:

Cognitive Accessibility Work at W3C

Current work on cognitive accessibility at W3C WAI is mostly focused in the following Task Forces under the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) and the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group:

Get Updates, Get Involved

To get notices of opportunities for review and comment on WAI documents, see Get WAI News.

Opportunities for contributing to cognitive accessibility and other WAI work are introduced in Participating in WAI.

If you would like to be more involved in the Task Force work, please send information about your interests and time availability:

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