Cognitive Disabilities

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Cognitive Disabilities

Sometimes, apps and websites can be so difficult to use they’re literally headache-inducing. When this happens — when an interface is too confusing, or moves too quickly, or forces the user to think too hard — this frustration is multiplied for those with cognitive disabilities, where cognitive thinking requires more effort and energy.

Improve Navigation

Without a doubt, the most stalling aspect of any user interface is usually the navigation, so dedicating extra attention to this area will inclusively improve the experience for all types of users. Bear in mind the following tips to reduce confusion:
• When linking, use anchor text that sets realistic expectations

• Maintain anchor text consistency when two links lead to the same destination

• Implement breadcrumbs to convey where the user stands in an event sequence

• Highlight the current keyboard focus (for input fields, a blinking cursor isn’t enough)

Eliminate the unexpected

Popups that users weren’t expecting, layouts that aren’t consistent across screens, interfaces that abruptly change the keyboard focus, and other sudden changes not communicated beforehand — these types of cheeks are always a bad idea. They’re extremely difficult for visually-impaired users, confusing for cognitively disabled users, frustrating for those with motor disabilities, and outright annoying for everybody else.

Eliminate obstacles, and always design for user expectation.

Reading tip: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Allow more time

Repetitive and/or frequent alerts such as chat messages, reminders, and auto- updating newsfeeds can be somewhat frustrating.

Users with cognitive disabilities should be able to manually control the timing of these updates to allow themselves more time to read and understand, and in the event that the user feels bombarded, allowing them to dismiss alerts and modals using the esc key can be a nice touch.

Rethink Autoplay

Literally nobody likes autoplaying videos; but regardless, the WCAG 2.0 states that there should be a mechanism to control any audio that plays for more than 3 seconds.
Additionally, anything that moves, blinks, or scrolls automatically (i.e. carousels, animations, marquees, etc.) and lasts longer than 5 seconds should be controllable.

Prevent Seizures

Anything that flashes more than 3 times/sec should be reasonably avoided, since flashing can induce seizures.

Exceptions can be made if the flashing is small, low-contrast, and doesn’t contain too much red; however, like with autoplay and other unanticipated behaviours as mentioned above, it’s usually best to avoid making interfaces reliant on sound or animation, as the risk is often not worth the reward.


Copyright © Alin Buda. All rights reserved. Trademarks, brands and some of the images are the property of their respective owners.
Some images sourced from Pexels™ and Unsplash™.