Making content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities

W3C Editor's Draft

This version:
https://w3c.github.io/coga/content-usable/
Latest published version:
https://www.w3.org/TR/coga-usable/
Latest editor's draft:
https://w3c.github.io/coga/content-usable/
Editors:
(Invited expert)
(Invited expert)
(W3C)
(W3C)

Abstract

This document is for people who make Web content (Web pages) and Web applications. It gives advice on how to make content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

This document has content about:

The Objectives and Patterns presented here provide supplemental guidance beyond the requirements of WCAG. Following the guidance in this document is not required for conformance to WCAG. However, following this guidance will increase accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

Status of This Document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at https://www.w3.org/TR/.

This document was published by the Accessible Platform Architectures Working Group and the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group as an Editor's Draft.

Comments regarding this document are welcome. Please send them to public-coga-comments@w3.org (archives).

Publication as an Editor's Draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C Membership. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

This document was produced by groups operating under the W3C Patent Policy. The group does not expect this document to become a W3C Recommendation. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures (Accessible Platform Architectures Working Group) and a public list of any patent disclosures (Accessibility Guidelines Working Group) made in connection with the deliverables of each group; these pages also include instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

This document is governed by the 1 March 2019 W3C Process Document.

1. Summary

To help web content providers meet the needs of people with cognitive and learning disabilities we have identified the following objectives:

  1. Help users understand what things are and how to use them. This often involves using things that are familiar to the user so that they do not have to learn new symbols, terms or design patterns. People with cognitive disabilities often need predictable behavior and design patterns. For example, they may know the standard convention for hyperlinks (underlined and blue for unvisited; purple for visited).
  2. Help users find what they need. Navigating the system should be easy. The layout should be clear and easy to follow with good visual cues like symbols. Using clear headings, boundaries and regions also help let people understand the page design.
  3. Help users understand with clear text and images. This includes easy words, short sentences and blocks of text, clear images, and easy to understand video.
  4. Provide support for different ways to understand content. Graphics, summaries of long documents, adding icons to headings and links and alternatives for numbers are all examples of extra help and support.
  5. Help users avoid mistakes. A good design will make errors less likely. Do not ask the user for more things then you need! When errors do occur the user should find it easy to correct them.
  6. Help users to maintain focus. Avoid distracting the user from their task. If they do get distracted, headings and breadcrumbs can help orientate the user and help the user restore the context when it is lost. (Making breadcrumbs clickable can also help the user undo mistakes.)
  7. Ensure processes do not rely on memory. Avoid memory barriers that stop people with cognitive disabilities from using content. This includes long passwords to log in and voice menus that involve remembering a specific number or term. Make sure there is an easier option for people who need it.
  8. Make it easy to get human help and give feedback. If users have difficulty sending feedback, then you will not know if they are able to use the content or when they are experiencing problems.
  9. Support adaptation and personalization. People with cognitive disabilities often use add-ons or extensions as assistive technology. Sometimes, extra support requires minimal effort from the user via personalization that allows the user to select preferred options from a set of alternatives. Support personalization when you can. Do not disable add-ons and extensions!
  10. Test with real users! Involve people with disabilities in the research, design and development process. They're the experts in what works for them. This includes involving people with cognitive and learning disabilities in:
    • focus groups
    • usability tests
    • the design and research team.

2. Introduction

Making websites and applications that are friendly for people with cognitive impairments affects every part of design and development.

Traditionally, accessibility focused on making the interface usable for people with sensory and physical impairments (vision, hearing and/or mobility). Some accessibility features will help people with cognitive impairments. Often the issues that affect people with cognitive and learning disabilities include design, context, structure, language, usability, and other factors that are difficult to include in general guidelines.

Some design patterns create barriers for people with disabilities. The patterns presented in this document have been designed to avoid such barriers for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. While this guidance may improve usability for all, these patterns are essential for some people with cognitive and learning impairments to be able to use content independently.

The Objectives and Patterns build on the:

The Objectives and Patterns presented here provide supplemental guidance beyond the requirements of WCAG. They address accessibility barriers that could not be included in the normative WCAG 2.x specification and may not otherwise be addressed.

2.1 How to Use this Document

This document provides information on the development process and design options for making websites and applications that are more usable and accessible for people with cognitive impairments. It is organized by high level objectives which are listed along with user stories in Section 3.

This document is divided into parts. Each part can be used when needed by different groups in the development team. Following the advice in this document as much as possible will be particularly valuable for Web content and applications that address:

2.2 Background about People with Learning and Cognitive Disabilities and the Web

Cognitive and learning disabilities include long-term, short-term, and permanent difficulties relating to cognitive functions, such as:

Design, structure and language choices can make content inaccessible to people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Examples may include:

These difficulties may sometimes also be experienced by users in the general population due to environmental or situational barriers, such as when they are trying to use a website when they are distracted. For example, working on a mobile device while in an unfamiliar or noisy situation can place an additional cognitive load on users by splitting their attention. However, for users with cognitive and learning disabilities, these difficulties are likely to be persistent and significant. As a result, they could be unable to access content and complete these tasks independently.

Cognitive and learning disabilities are usually hidden difficulties and may be age related. The terminology and definitions used for cognitive disabilities varies between countries and users are less likely to have a formal diagnosis of a disability than individuals with physical and sensory difficulties. Often, only some functions are impaired while other cognitive functions are unaffected. For example, someone with dyslexia may be a fantastic engineer. Sometimes, cognitive disability may include intellectual impairments that affect comprehension alongside written and spoken expression. People may also experience more than one type of cognitive and learning disability.

Mental health issues can also result in cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty focusing, cognitive fatigue or reduced memory. Overall, by addressing barriers to accessibility for users with cognitive and learning disabilities, improvements to digital technologies can be achieved and there is the potential to improve user experience for everyone.

Diagram showing the union of Usability and Accessibility with both contained within User Experience.

2.3 Building the User into the Development Process

Some aspects of making web content and applications friendly for people with cognitive and learning disabilities are best dealt with as part of the overall design process. For most organizations there should be scope included for a user-centered design process.

Key parts of this process for people with cognitive and learning disabilities should be:

If people with cognitive impairments are included in the usability testing and their feedback is accounted for, the website will be easier to use for everyone, including people who are experiencing stress or mental health issues.

3. User Stories

This section contains user stories, followed by the user needs that relate to them. They are divided into the same objectives as the design guide above.

Note that for people with learning and cognitive disabilities, meeting these needs often is the difference between being able to use the site or not be able to use it at all. This may also be true for people with mental health issues or under temporary stress.

User needs for people with learning and cognitive disabilities (COGA) are often helpful for other users, although they can usually manage to use the site without these user needs being met.

3.1 Objective 1: Help Users Understand What Things are and How to Use Them

3.1.1 User Story: Clear Purpose

As a user with a memory impairment, attention impairment and/or executive function impairment or as a user with a communication disability who uses symbols, I need to know the purpose of the content so that I know if I am in the right place, and what I am doing even if I lose attention and focus for a time.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I know what the website offers, or if I should move on.
  • I know what features and content are on this page or if I should move on.
  • I always recognize where I am in the architecture of the website, application or multi-step process, even after I get distracted.
  • I know the relationship between this page and the site/task, even after I get distracted.
  • I can easily see the context and purpose of the page.
  • In videos and multimedia: I know what is going to be in the video, I can jump to the content I need, and I can restore context if I get distracted.

Related Personas: Carolyn, Frank, Maria, Tom

3.1.2 User Story: Clear Operation

As a user with a memory impairment, a learning disability, or a communication disability who uses symbols, and/or executive function impairment, I find it hard to learn new interface design patterns. I need to know which controls are available and how to use them so that the site is usable for me.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I understand my options and the tasks I can perform and I can identify the controls I can interact with in order to complete actions.
  • I know how to use all the controls and the effects of each action.
  • The interface is designed so that I rarely touch controls by accident
  • I do not try to activate elements that are not controls. Otherwise I just think the site is broken and give up.
  • Controls do not move unexpectedly as I am using them.
  • I know the consequence of each action, such as sending information, changing settings, changing the context or closing the application.

Related Personas: Alison, Amy, Anna, Frank, George, Sam

3.1.3 User Story: Symbols (pictographic or ideographic that represent concepts)

As a user with complex communication needs that may include a mild language impairment, I want symbols that help me understand the content.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I need symbols to help understand essential content, such as controls and section headings.
  • I need symbols that I understand and are familiar to me; recognizable, commonly used symbols; or personalizable.
  • I need symbols placed above the text to link the meaning of the words with the images.

As a user with a severe language impairment, who has managed to learn a symbol vocabulary, I need to have symbols on top of each phrase and very simplified language. Of course it is best if I understand the symbols and they are the ones I have learnt (via personalization).

Related Persona: Frank, George

3.2 Objective 2: Help Users Find What They Need

3.2.1 User Story: Findable

As a user with a memory impairment, weak executive function and/or weak language processing skills, I need to be able to find features and content easily, so that I can find things in a reasonable amount of time.

I can identify important information and critical functions on a page, quickly and easily.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can reach important information and the controls I need without scrolling or carrying out other actions. They are not hidden or off screen.
  • I can easily identify content that I need, and do not need. Information I need to know and important information stands out, or is the first thing I read and does not get lost in the noise of less important information.
  • I can get to the feature I need using the minimum number of easy steps.
  • I know the starting point for each specific task, such as applying for a job.
  • I find the design familiar such that user interface elements such as menus, buttons and design components as well as elements common to many websites such as help and search are where I expect them to be and do not move unexpectedly.

Related Personas: Alison, Amy, Anna, Carolyn, Maria, Tom

3.2.2 User Story: Searchable

As a user with a memory impairment, weak executive function and/or weak language processing skills, I need to be able to find features and content easily, so that I can find things in a reasonable amount of time. I can easily search for what I want.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can find what I have searched for before.
  • I can easily navigate through the menu structure and organization of the site.
  • I can easily navigate through the page structure.

Related Persona: Tom

3.2.3 User Story: Clear Navigation

As a user with a memory impairment, weak executive function and/or weak language processing skills, I need to be able to find features and content easily, so that I can find things in a reasonable amount of time.

I need the structure and menu categories to make sense to me, so that I find what I am looking for, without looking in the wrong place.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can easily understand, navigate and browse both the site and page structure.
  • I can scan the page and understand the priority and structure of the content.

Related Personas: Alison, Amy, Frank, Maria, Sam, Tom

3.2.4 User Story: Media

As a user with weak executive functioning and attention impairments, I want media presented in small chunks of understandable content, so I can understand the main points and not lose focus.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can easily navigate to what I want, take breaks and easily jump back a step if I do not follow or get distracted, when I am using small segments of multimedia that have navigable text or labels that describe the segment.
  • I understand plain language used in the media.
  • I can use a clear structure to help me navigate and understand different parts of the media.
  • I can use visual aids and pictures to help me understand the media content.

Related Persona: Carolyn

3.3 Objective 3: Use Clear and Understandable Content

3.3.1 User Story: Clear Language (Written or Audio)

As a user with a language impairment, learning disability and/or a memory impairment, I want the language used to be clear and easy for me to understand so that I can understand the content.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I understand the language used including vocabulary, syntax, tense and other aspects of language.
  • I can easily distinguish the content from the background distractions.
  • I need words to include accents, characters and diacritics that are necessary to phonetically read the words. This is often needed for speech synthesis and phonetic readers in languages like Arabic and Hebrew.
  • I do not want unexplained, implied or ambiguous information because I may misunderstand jokes and metaphors.
  • I want an easy to understand, short summary for long pieces of content or an option for an easy to read version.
  • I use images, diagrams or video clips to help me understand ideas, more than a lot of words.

Related Personas: Carolyn, George, Sam, Tom

3.3.2 User Story: Visual Presentation

As a user with a language impairment, learning disability and/or an impaired memory, I want a page layout that helps me follow and understand the content without getting overwhelmed.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can read short boxes or chunks of content or sections easily. These usually have:
    • Clear headings.
    • Short paragraphs and sentences with one idea.
    • Good use of lists.
    • Pictographic symbols next to headings, labels and links.
  • I can read easily when there is a good use of white space.
    • Good use of white space between lines, sentences or phrases.
    • Good use of white space between chunks, so that the chunks are clear and the page does not get overwhelming.
  • I need explanations of implied content, like body gestures and facial expressions seen in images and animations.

Related Personas: Amy, Anna, Carolyn, Frank, George, Sam, Tom

3.3.3 User Story: Math Concepts

As a user who does not understand numerical concepts, I need content to be usable without understanding math concepts.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I want content to be usable without understanding math concepts, such as percentages.
    • I do not want math concepts in my content or
    • the content provides multiple / alternatives like a non-math symbol. (There are people who find math easier to understand than words - just not me!)
  • I find words easier to understand than digits.

Related Personas: Alison, Frank, Jonathan

3.4 Objective 4: Help Users Avoid Mistakes or Correct Them

3.4.1 User Story: Assistance and Support

As a user who has difficulty with organization (executive functioning), typing, and putting letters and numbers in the right order, I want an interface that helps me avoid making mistakes, complete forms and other similar tasks successfully.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I want an interface that makes mistakes less likely by helping me avoid mistakes, as well as minimize the mistakes I might make.
  • I want to enter as little information as possible, so the task is more manageable.
  • I want an interface to provide only valid options, so I can select the ones I want.
  • I want an interface that helps ensure I rarely touch controls by accident.
  • I want long numbers that often have spaces, like credit card numbers, divided into chunks. That way I find it easier to check it.
  • I want inputs to accept different formats and not mark them as mistakes.
  • I want interfaces to use metrics I know, and that are common in my location (such as feet or meters) or I get confused. I do not always know what metric they are talking about or notice the number looks wrong.
  • I want to use applications or APIs that help me, such as remembering my information so I do not need to enter it again and have help with my spelling.
  • I want clear labels, step-by-step instructions and clear error messages, so I know exactly what to do.
  • I want examples that make it easy to understand what I need to do.
  • I want clear and simple explanations of options or choices to help me know what they mean.
  • I want help managing my time, such as letting me know how long a task will take.
  • I do not want a session to time out while I try to find the information needed, such as my postal/zip code or social security number.
  • I want to save my work as I go or be sure all my work is saved automatically. I do not want to have to start over again, which can create a cycle of reentering my data. This makes me tire easily and more likely to make mistakes.
  • I want support to manage the task such as letting me know what information I will need (credit card, full address etc) before I start.

Related Personas: Alison, Anna, Carolyn, Frank, George, Jonathan, Maria, Sam, Tom

3.4.2 User Story: Undo

As a user who often makes mistakes or touches the wrong thing, I want to be able to undo what I just did quickly and easily so that I can manage to use applications and not give up.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I want to be able to check my work and go back without losing the work I have just done.
  • If I touch the wrong control, it is important to make it easy for me to go back to where I was in one simple step.
  • I want predictable back or undo features so I'm exactly where I was previously, before I made a mistake.
  • I understand the consequences of what I do.

Related Personas: Alison, Anna, Maria

3.5 Objective 5: Help Users to Maintain Focus

3.5.1 User Story: Distractions

As a user with an attention impairment and weak memory, I need to be able to avoid distraction and restore the context after I lose focus and come back to the task, so that I can complete the task I am trying to do.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I do not want distractions from my task.
  • If there are distractions, I must be able to easily turn them off

As a user that needs help to stay focused, I need help with knowing where a task starts and finishes to help with switching attention so that I can focus on the task.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I need to know the context, where I am, what I just did, or what just happened to me after I lost cognitive focus and then needed to come back to the task.

As a user with poor short-term memory, I need to be able to go back or see information about where I am in a site so I can reorientate myself.

As a user who gets disoriented, I want to know where I am in a process, including what I have done and what my next step will be.

Related Personas: Amy, Carolyn, Frank, Sam, Tom

3.6 Objective 6: Ensure Processes Do Not Rely on Memory

3.6.1 User Story: Previous Steps

As a user with short-term and working memory difficulties, I need processes that do not rely on memory and access to information I entered during previous steps in a process.

3.6.2 User Story: Accessible Authentication

As a user who has memory impairments and often forgets passwords, and has weak executive function, I need a method of secure website authentication that I can use.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I need to be able to use a site without remembering or transcribing passwords and usernames
  • I cannot decipher a lot of words or symbols
  • I need the login process to be simple, and not multi-step
  • As a symbol user, I need a login process I can use that does not rely on a lot of words
  • I need the login process that does not contain puzzles or calculations

Related Personas: Anna, Jonathan

3.6.3 User Story: Voice Menus

As a user who has memory impairments and weak language processing skills, I want to get human help, without going through a complex VoiceXML menu system and/or a complex voice recognition menu system that relies on memory and executive function, so I can set an appointment or find out some information.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • If I get stuck I want to be able to find a human by pressing a reserved digit (typically the number 0).
  • I need simple-to-navigate voice-menu systems with limited options that make sense to me, so I don’t have to struggle with multiple steps.
  • I need the option to be said before the number to select, so I do not have to remember the number while processing the words.
  • As a user with low cognitive processing speed, I want pauses between each option so I can process what was said.
  • As a slow speaker I want the system to wait for my response.
  • I want it to be simple, to go back every time I make a mistake, without having to start at the beginning.
  • I want the best practices for usability to be followed.
  • As a user who has weak executive function, I need a process to select simple help, and not multi-step help.
  • I do not want to waste my energy while I struggle to understand other material, such as special offers or promotions.
  • As a user with weak language skills I need help identifying the right words to say in a voice menu and the words should be the ones I would use.
  • As a user who struggles with multiple steps, I need to identify relevant options quickly.

Related Personas: Frank, Maria

3.7 Objective 7: Provide Help and Support

3.7.1 User Story: Help

As a user who often cannot use a website I want to be able to get help and give feedback easily from every place where I get stuck. This ensures I am not excluded and the site is aware of my needs.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I can give feedback from any point in the process.
  • I can give feedback, ask questions and get feedback:
    • In a similar timeframe to everyone else.
    • Using my preferred communication method (form, email, chat, phone support, etc.) that are being provided, and it is accessible to me.
    • I know how to get help or information, such as from context-sensitive help or tooltips.
  • I know how to get human help and can manage the process easily.

Related Persona: Alison

3.7.2 User Story: Support

As a user who often cannot use a website I sometimes need in-page and inline support so that I am able to use the content.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • As a user who struggles with text and words, help and support should include symbols or enable me to personalize using my own
  • As a user who struggles with text and words, help and main content should be clearly differentiated so I do not confuse them
  • As a user who struggles with text and words, I need contextually-relevant graphs and pictures to supplement text so I can understand a point without a lot of reading. For example, I find graphs much easier to understand than the same information in an article or academic paper
  • As a user who struggles with text and words, I need text to speech support, with synchronized highlighting, so I can follow as I go
  • As a user who struggles with web content, I need rapid feedback or visual cues to indicate an event was successfully triggered. For example, I need to know when an email has been sent, otherwise it looks as if it has just disappeared
  • 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 website to complete the next task
  • As a user with an attention disorder, too many reminders distract me. I need to be able to control when reminders are sent, the frequency and type of reminders.

3.7.3 User Story: Directions

As a user with cognitive disabilities that effect navigation and sequencing, I need help understanding and using directions and navigation.

Related Personas: George, Sam,

3.7.4 User Story: Cognitive Stress

As a user with sensitivities that can be affected by content (e.g. content that is busy, confusing, depressing, loud noise), I need content that I can cope with so that I can be successful.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I need simple, consistent content.
  • I need to avoid and recover from mental fatigue.
  • I need to sometimes avoid types of content, such as social media, distractions, noises or triggers.
  • I need to make less mistakes and errors.
  • I need to know I am safe and secure when using a website, especially if providing information or communicating with others.

Related Persona: Tom

3.7.5 User Story: Task Management

As a user who struggles using web content due to executive function impairment and/or struggle with numerical concepts, I want to be confident that I can manage my tasks.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • Explanations for unusual controls in a form I find easy to use (such as a video or text).
  • Support and explanations for any choices. The advantages or disadvantages are clear to me and I understand the effects of the choice I might make. For example, when choosing a cheaper airline ticket you often have to pay for a meal.
  • I know how to start a task, and what is involved such as:
    • the steps involved.
    • a time estimate for completing the task and any time limits.
    • and any materials I may need (such as a credit card number, passport number, questions that authenticate login such as “your mother’s maiden name”).
    • There is support and instructions that I understand to help me organize the time and steps.
    • Any limitations are clear to me before I begin.
  • I can turn off any distractions during a task, and help is available at any point.

Related Personas: Frank, Jonathan, Sam, Tom

3.8 Objective 8: Support Adaptation and Personalization

3.8.1 User Story: Adapt

As a user with short and medium term memory impairment and weak executive function, I need a familiar interface so that I do not need to figure out and remember new interfaces. This may take a few weeks of repetition and I may not manage to learn it all if I have a condition affecting learning new things, such as dementia.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • I need (a version of) the interface to be familiar to me, that I recognize and know what will happen.
  • I need the controls to be consistently positioned on the screen where I expect them to be.
  • I need content delivered in an easy to understand language or an easy-to-understand mode (like short, understandable, video clips).
  • I need to be able to find and select the content format or version of the content that is easiest for me to understand.
  • I need alternatives to spoken and written language such as icons, symbols or pictures.
  • I need personalized symbols or pictures that I can recognize immediately, as learning new ones takes a long time.
  • When I do not know a word I need I need the symbols and pictures that I know and recognize.
  • I need video and pictures that help me understand the content without so much reading of text.
  • I need my additional support features from widgets or extensions. For example, I have an extension that helps me correctly enter words, grammar and use punctuation as well as read the page to me.
  • I need "easy to use" gestures on a touch screen that do not confuse me (or the possibility of alternative access).
  • I need to be able to express my ideas without so many words, such as using speech recognition or pictures (I have a program, where I select a word and it gives me a picture).
  • I often need more white space to be added between lines, sentences, phrases and chunks.
  • I need alternatives for mathematical content, that do not rely on mathematical concepts.
  • I often need less content without extra options and features as sometimes I cannot function at all when there is too much cognitive overload.
  • I need to be able to find the extra features when I want them.

Related Personas: Alison, Amy, Frank, Jonathan, Sam

3.8.2 User Story: Extensions and API’s

As a user with learning and cognitive impairments, who uses add-ons and extensions as assistive technology, I need my add-ons, API's and extensions to work with the content so that I can use it.

This also includes the following user needs:

  • Additional support features from widgets or extensions. For example, I have an extension that helps me correctly enter words, grammar and use punctuation as well as read the page to me.
  • A password manager.
  • A toolbar that adds symbols and reformats the page.

Related Personas: Alison, Anna, Jonathan, Tom

4. Design Guide

4.1 Design Guide Introduction

This guide provides assistance making websites and applications friendly for people with cognitive and learning disabilities by providing guidance for designs and the design process.

The Objectives and Patterns presented here provide supplemental guidance beyond the requirements of WCAG. They are intended to address barriers that could not not be included in the normative WCAG 2.x specification and may not otherwise be addressed.

This guide is divided into design themes. Each theme includes user stories, testing methodologies, and design checkpoints. Simply understanding the themes and user stories may help designers make content more accessible to some users with cognitive and learning disabilities. Implementing these patterns is essential for some people with cognitive and learning impairments to be able to use content independently. Please see the section on user testing for guidance on how to perform cognitive accessibility user testing.

4.2 Objective 1: Help Users Understand What Things are and How to Use Them

Not everyone finds learning new things easy, and not everyone can remember new designs. To use a site or application, people need to know what all controls and elements are on each page and how to use them. Fewer people can use sites and applications that require users to figure out how to use controls or interact with the page.

Many users, including users with mild cognitive impairment or dementia cannot easily learn new design metaphors or remember things they learned. Without these skills, it can be much harder or impossible to find what they need, work out what controls do and how to use them.

Many users can be overwhelmed by too many options or too much information. If an individual's reading is slow, then too much information without structure and organization will make it difficult or impossible to use the site.

Using familiar design patterns, terms and symbols is key to helping users who struggle to remember new symbols and design. Users need the following to be familiar:

Personalization can be extremely useful for designers who want to offer familiarity and flexibility. Familiarity helps users with cognitive and learning disabilities but is often based on the needs of the individual user. Personalization allows users to customize their interface, which is important as what is familiar for one user may not be familiar to another.

4.2.1 Pattern: Make the Purpose of Your Page Clear

4.2.1.1 User Need

I can easily see the context and purpose of the page.

Related User Story: Clear Purpose.

4.2.1.2 Description

Use a clear title or heading that summarizes the purpose of a page, or other clear signposts that have been tested by users with cognitive disabilities.

4.2.1.3 How it Helps

This helps many people, including those with poor memory and attention as well as anyone who is easily distracted due to age-appropriate forgetfulness and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

For example, someone with mild dementia is using online shopping. They get distracted and then when they look at the screen again they have forgotten what they were doing. A clear heading at the top of each page shows clearly what the page is about and what they are doing.

In another example, a user with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is looking for information in a video. They can tell by the video title that this video is has the information they need.

4.2.1.4 More Details

Headings need to clarify the purpose of this specific page.

When possible, provide information to help users understand how they got to the page. For example: breadcrumbs, clearly indicated on main navigation, highlighting currently selected tab, etc.)

4.2.1.5 Examples

Use: Headings tell me exactly where I am.

Avoid:

  • Headings do not clarify the steps in a form;
  • A page heading reads "Service not available." The user has to remember what they were doing to know what service this is about.

4.2.2 Pattern: Use a Design that the User is Likely to Recognize and Understand

4.2.2.1 User Need

I find it hard to learn new interface design patterns.

Related User Story: Clear Operation.

4.2.2.2 Description

Use common visual hierarchy, design elements, affordances, and patterns that are familiar to most users.

4.2.2.3 How it Helps

Many users, such as those with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, cannot easily learn and remember new design metaphors. Without these skills, it can be much harder or impossible to locate desired items to interact with, and to know what interactions may do. Users can feel lost or overwhelmed.

Because common design elements are repeated often over a long period of use across many sites, users are more likely to recognize the interactions needed.

For example, a user goes to a site to buy a product. They cannot see how to select the item that they want. They may think the site does not allow you to buy or that their computer is broken.

4.2.2.4 More Details

Common design elements, affordances and patterns include:

  • Create a standard Visual Hierarchy - Place elements where the user is expecting them, such as:
    • Search in the top right hand corner in a website;
    • Link to the home page is in the top left hand corner;
    • Link to ‘contact us’ is in the top navigation;
    • Link to the site map is in the footer area;
    • Submit button is at the bottom right for a form;
  • Uses common design patterns, such as are documented in the ARIA authoring best practices or are used in the most popular sites:
    • Very common navigation design patterns and common icons;
    • A platform specific user interface design for navigation mechanisms and icons;
    • An adaptive user interface design that can be personalized (see above);
  • User interface (design) from a prior version: Allow users to revert back to a prior version of the application that they are familiar with.
  • Links that look like links and buttons look and act like buttons:
    • For example, underline links with a standard style throughout a page;
    • Links generally navigate to a new page;
    • Buttons generally perform an action;
4.2.2.5 Getting Started

When deciding pages, select standard components that look and behave the way users expect. Use standard conventions for layout such as the home link in the upper left corner, navigation at the top, search in the upper right, etc. and create an obvious visual hierarchy in the page.

4.2.3 Pattern: Use a Consistent Visual Design

4.2.3.1 User Need

I always recognize where I am in the architecture of the website.

Related User Story: Clear Operation.

4.2.3.2 Description

Use a consistent visual design across groups of pages.

4.2.3.3 How it Helps

Those with difficulty understanding how to interact with information need to use cues like color, layout and other visual information to help them know where to look, what they should do and how they should complete that task.

For example, an older user with age appropriate forgetfulness takes a long time to learn new designs. When they come to a site, the first page takes time to understand, but then they know what to do on the next page. If the next page is different from the first and also difficult to learn, they become tired and make more mistakes, as they move to a third page the cognitive load becomes too much and they cannot complete the task. This pattern helps by:

  • Ensuring a consistent user experience by providing familiarity and building confidence;
  • Making it possible to easily use and interact with content;
  • Aiding the completion of tasks; and
  • Reducing cognitive overload which can lead to increased stress and mental fatigue.
4.2.3.4 More Details

This includes:

  • Design themes, including heading styles, font choices, symbols, colors, visual appearance of controls, buttons and links should be consistent.
  • Headings with the same structural level have the same font and visual style.
  • Icons, controls and menu items that have same function and role have the same look and style
  • State and focus for elements with similar function and roles have the same style used consistently across a site.
  • Layout should be consistent, including position of interactive elements and navigational controls.
  • Structure of content and style of presenting information should be consistent throughout, such as organization of block text, images and bullet points.
4.2.3.5 Getting Started

Plan the design for your information before adding content. Think about the colors, font choices and areas where text and images will appear.

4.2.3.6 Examples

Use:

A web page has two submit buttons, both should visually look and function the same way.

All selected radio buttons on the site look the same.

When all links on a page have keyboard focus the focus indicator looks the same.

Avoid:

3 pages have a submit button, but each one is located in a different place on the page.

There are 6 heading level 2s on a page. 4 are styled using Times New Roman, and 2 use Helvetica.

4.2.4 Pattern: Make Each Step Clear

4.2.4.1 User Need

I always recognize where I am in the architecture of the website, application or multi-step process, even after I get distracted.

Related User Story: Clear Purpose.

4.2.4.2 Description

In a multi-step process, clearly indicate the steps completed, the current step and the steps pending. Make it clear what the user did to reach the current step, including important choices.

Make sure the current location and progress within a sequence is clear.

4.2.4.3 How it Helps

Clearly indicating the current location and progress helps a user who loses focus or gets distracted reorient to their current activity without reading a great deal of content or restarting. Providing information about the steps that need to be completed ensures that a user who may find a process difficult to complete can determine if they can successfully finish.

Examples include:

  • someone with early stage dementia is interrupted in their task or loses focus and then cannot remember what they were doing. By seeing the bread crumbs they can remind themselves where they were and continue their task;
  • someone with an attention disability gets distracted and then needs to pick up where they left off;
  • someone with a learning disability is not sure if this application has too many steps and if they will manage. By seeing they are half-way through they can gauge if they can cope with the entire process.
4.2.4.4 Examples

Use: Using breadcrumbs to indicate the current steps in the process, important choices, as well as past and future steps.

Avoid: Completed steps and choices the user has made are hard to find without relying on memory (example: hidden behind accordions or a previous page).

4.2.5 Pattern: Clearly Identify Controls and Their Use

4.2.5.1 User Need

I understand my options and the tasks I can perform and I can identify the controls I can interact with in order to complete actions.

Related User Story: Clear Operation.

4.2.5.2 Description

Use a clear and recognizable design for controls. Make it clear what controls are and how to use them.

Use a clear design for controls by:

  • Using a common style on controls (for example: links being underlined);
  • Using common design pattern on links and controls (for example: clicking on a link takes you to the page);
  • Making all the borders of controls clear other than textual links (for example: a help icon has a border);
  • Ensuring items that are not clickable do not look like links or controls.

When this is not possible, provide instructions that explain their use. Instructions should be on the same page or one click away and written in plain language.

4.2.5.3 How it Helps

Using common style and design pattern on controls makes it easier to recognize and understand how to use it. Controls are parts of web pages that do something, e.g. a link, button, checkbox.

The goal of these controls is to have someone use them. As soon as the user needs to discover the control or work out how to use it, some users will fail.

For example, an older user with age appropriate forgetfulness takes longer to learn new designs. They go to an ecommerce site has boxes around the headers (such as "womens" or "sale") and simple large text for the "add to cart" button. They click on the headings and not on the add to cart. After a few failures they assume they cannot manage it and leave the site.

Some users have trouble when controls have a different look, color or shape than they have used before. For example, when links do not have underlines and blue or purple text (even if this appears with focus) some users will not know there is a link.

If you have difficulty with memory, it can be harder to use unique controls. It may be slower to find them on the page. And even if they work just a little differently than similar ones, some may need to relearn how to use them each time they need to use them.

Using typical controls on the page will help people know how to use them. When using more unique controls, include easy to follow instructions and make them easy to find. Regardless of how a user uses the page (vision, auditory, voice input) it should be easy to identify, understand and use the controls.

If you are designing a new control, make them easy to identify (I know they are there), understand (I know what they do), and use (I know how to use them). Test with people with different cognitive and learning disabilities. Use a simple style or have easy to follow instructions that explain their use.

4.2.5.4 Examples

Use:

Links with an underline and/or blue text color (or purple for already visited links), or both clearly identify links. Once a color is selected to be the primary link text color, other text on the page does not use this.

Avoid:

Links without an underline or usual blue text color (or purple for already visited links), even those that become clear when they receive focus are more difficult to use. Some users may not know they are there.

4.2.6 Pattern: Make the Relationship Clear Between Controls and What They Affect

4.2.6.1 User Need

I know how to use all the controls and the effects of each action.

Related User Story: Clear Operation.

4.2.6.2 Description

The relationship between controls and affected content should be completely clear and unambiguous.

This can be achieved through:

  • Visually grouping controls with the content they relate to and/or including controls within the region they affect;
  • Using clear dividers and/or white space between region in a page that may have separate controls or a scroll bar;
  • Avoiding multiple or nested scrolling areas;
4.2.6.3 How it Helps

Controls that affect only one section of a page is confusing. Many users will look again at the content, try and work out what they are supposed to do, and discover the correct controls or scrollbar. However, many people with cognitive or learning disabilities will not be able to work out what they did incorrectly. Others will feel cognitive overload, and will give up as a result. They may assume the application is broken, or that it is just too complicated for them. For all of these users, the application will not be usable.

Having a border or other visual cue around the controls and the relevant page section make it more understandable. If the controls cannot be next to the area they affect, check with user testing that the users with cognitive and learning disabilities find all the page relationships clear and immediately know how to use the controls.

This helps people with cognitive disabilities that impact problem solving skills, those that get overwhelmed when presented with a lot of text, and those with difficulties with more complicated tasks. This can include some individuals with early stages of dementia, people who have had a concussion or a stroke, people with intellectual disabilities, and others. Those impacted may not complete tasks, miss key information, and not return to pages that are complicated to use and understand.

Do not have two scroll bars close together. Some users may find it difficult to determine which one to use with a particular section of content. Instead, use clear visual layout and placement of the scroll bars, break the content into two separate pages, or consider removing unnecessary information from the page.

For example, consider a user living with dementia trying to work out which scrollbar to use if there are more than one embedded in scrollable regions. When they try the wrong scrollbar, they do not get the effect they desire and their content may seem to disappear. If a website has 2 scrollbars; each operates a different section. When users try the wrong scroll bar, they do not get the effect they desire.

4.2.6.4 More Details
  • Separating Interactive Elements - Place interactive elements like scroll bars and buttons close to the content they can impact. Also, keep interactive elements further from content to which they do not apply. This makes it easier to identify which elements will impact each section of content.
  • Examples of clear dividers include high contrast borders or white space. A change in background color can be a clear divider if the contrast is strong enough.
  • Sometimes the structure and relationships can be made clear through personalization or user agents and good use of semantics in the code (see WCAG 2.0 SC 1.3.1).
  • Pages with scroll bars close together that impact different content areas.
4.2.6.5 Examples

Use:

  • A page includes a scrollbar for one section. The scroll bars look like they are inside the section and there are clear borders around the section so it is clear what content scrolls.
  • On a library site, a search box for the whole site is located in the upper right of the site’s main navigation. A second search box searches the library catalog. It is located within a section with a clear border, different background color, and a heading “Library Catalog”. The go button reads “search catalog”.

Avoid:

  • When scrollbars are embedded in scrollable regions, and it is unclear which scrollbar to use.
  • The search box relates to one area of a page, and not for another area. It is unclear which area the search is for.
  • Controls act on one region and it is not clear which areas are acted on.
  • Multiple nested scrolling regions.

4.2.7 Pattern: Use Symbols that Help the User

4.2.7.1 User Need

I know what features and content are on this page or if I should move on.

Related User Story: Use Symbols.

4.2.7.2 Description

Add familiar symbols (icons, images and pictographs) to important content such as controls and section headings. Each symbol should convey a single meaning and be adjacent to the content it relates to.

4.2.7.3 How it Helps

People who have language comprehension difficulties who may be able to mechanically read but not understand the content or those who have learning and/or reading difficulties may rely on symbols to understand content and navigate to content they need. Symbols also help people who struggle with language and attention to navigate content, including media.

For example, a person with aphasia, has the intellectual ability to understand concepts, but struggles with language. They may be dependent on the use of symbols to browse pages for information.

It can also help the elderly population who can find cluttered pages with dense text hard to read on a screen. Clear symbols and images that act as signposts to the text content can be very helpful.

4.2.7.4 More Details
  • Use personalization semantics;
  • Use clear and unambiguous symbols that can easily be seen and made larger;
  • Be aware of cultural differences;
  • In left-to-right languages, when adding a few symbols to a page place the image to the left of the text.
  • When adding multiple symbols to a paragraph or section of text, place the symbols above the text.
4.2.7.5 Getting Started

Provide symbols besides key texts, headings, media sections, contact us and help

Find the common symbol used

4.2.7.6 Examples

Use:

A set of instructions where the bullet points are symbols relating to the content within the text.

Avoid:

A page with important instructions and no symbols or images to guide the reader or a very cluttered page of symbols that confuses.

4.3 Objective 2: Help Users Find What They Need

4.3.1 Pattern: Make it Easy to Identify the Most Important Tasks and Features of the Site

4.3.1.1 User Need

I can easily identify content that I need, and do not need. Information I need to know and important information stands out, or is the first thing I read and does not get lost in the noise of less important information.

Related User Story: Findable.

4.3.1.2 Description

Make important tasks and features on the site visually and programmatically prominent. Techniques to do so include:

  • Calling out key tasks for the website on the home page
    • Dedicating call out boxes or sections of the home page to these tasks/features
    • Giving the most important tasks/features visual weight
    • Placing the tasks/features towards the top of the page so the user does not have to scroll to see them
    • Placing the tasks/features toward the top of the content so assistive technology finds them quickly
    • When appropriate, providing headings for each key task or feature
  • Including them at a top level of the main navigation
4.3.1.3 How it Helps

People with low executive function, impaired memory, and other cognitive and learning disabilities may have difficulty determining what they can do on a site. By calling out important tasks and features, people can more quickly determine whether the site will meet their needs.

For example, a user goes to website to buy the tickets. He sees many reviews and other information but cannot see how to buy the tickets. The user leaves the site.

4.3.1.4 More Details

The most important tasks and features are:

  • The three tasks the users want to perform
  • The three most common tasks (from the users' perspective)
  • Tasks that affect the users' health or wellbeing

Usage data can normally identify the most common tasks. Focus groups and surveys are also useful for identifying what the users want.

4.3.1.5 Examples

Use: A library website includes the important tasks directly on the main page. The advanced search box which allows users to search for books in the catalog is located towards the top of the home page and a simple version which allows users to search the site or the catalog is in the main navigation. Important tasks such as signing up for a library card, locating a branch, and reserving a conference room are listed in the main navigation and included on the main page in visually distinct boxes.

Avoid: A library website only includes upcoming events on the main page. Users have to click on a link titled Catalog before they can get to a search box to look for books. Signing up for a library card, locating a branch, and reserving a conference room are included on a page labeled About and are not easily visible from the main navigation.

4.3.2 Pattern: Ensure the Hierarchy of the Site and Menu Structure is Logical, Easy to Identify and Navigate

4.3.2.1 User Need

I can easily understand, navigate and browse both the site and page structure.

Related User Story: Clear Navigation.

4.3.2.2 Description

It is easy to understand and use the site hierarchy and the overall menu structure. Sub-menu items are clearly associated with the main menu items under which they fall. It is easy to know that sub-menu items are there and how to get to them. Users should be able to easily identify:

  • The site organization,
  • The menu and content structure,
  • That there are sub-menus and, if there are,
  • How to reach sub-menu items.
4.3.2.3 How it Helps

Confusion can occur when visual hierarchy of information is not immediately apparent to the user. Having clear sub-menus and a clear structure will help the user know what is on the site and how to find it.

Dividing the site into clear logical sections can help the user navigate. However, each section needs to be clear and the subsections easy to find. The category structure should create an outline of the document that could serve as an abstract of the whole site. The terms need to make sense to the user, and it needs to be obvious to the user what category the page they are looking for would fall under.

Distinction between levels in content hierarchy may be difficult to understand or perceive due to minimal type size or type weight differences or color differences that are not easily perceived or understood. Furthermore, hierarchy solely dependent on small unique design elements may create confusion.

For example, a drop down accordion menu of additional sub-menu items may not be viewable without understanding it needs to be clicked (or ‘rolled over’) as indicated by a small unique design element.

When opening a web page for the first time, the sub-menus are typically collapsed and their design may make it difficult to even know that they are there. Some users with cognitive disabilities may not guess that they are present, or after seeing one expand by accident, may not generalize that this structure may be present for other items in a menu. Making it easy to notice that there are sub-menu items ensures the user can use this part of your site. An example is a menu without any visual indication that there are sub-menu items.

There are times where how to open the sub-menu item may not be easy for some with cognitive disabilities. If the control to expand a menu item relies on a particular gesture or way of rolling over the area with a mouse, for example, the end user may not figure out how to expand the sub-menu and may abandon the task. An example would be a menu that expands only after moving the mouse over a particular side of the menu text.

4.3.2.4 More Details

Small design elements that indicate sub-menu items will be presented that aren’t always readily apparent or meaningful to the user and not universally adopted.

Examples include a chevron (triangle). In different designs it can be either left facing right facing, up facing or down facing depending on state and the unique design standard affecting interpretation of state.

Confusion can occur when a right facing chevron can indicate that more information will be presented on the current page when clicked or it may mean that information is currently being presented, or it may indicate that it takes the user to a new page. Consistent and general best practices should be used to make it understandable to the user.

Furthermore, a series of these nested elements on a long page can create visual hierarchy confusion if dependent solely on interpretation of design elements.

4.3.2.5 Getting Started

Create a visually clear hierarchy of in-line information in either a revealed or hidden state. Clearly indicate when text is hidden or when it can be hidden or revealed.

4.3.2.6 Examples

An example of consistent “+” sign to show that additional information will be shown when pressed.

Use:

  • The presence of sub-menu items is easy to find because there are triangles next to their menu items.

Avoid:

  • No visual indication of sub-menu items is next to the menu item. The only way to discover the presence of the sub-menu item if using a mouse is to move the mouse over the location of the sub-menu item;
  • Expanding to view the sub-menu items requires interaction by mouse with a specific area of the menu item, and this area is not visually distinguished.

4.3.3 Pattern: Use a Clear and Understandable Page Structure

4.3.3.1 User Need

I can easily understand, navigate and browse both the site and page structure.

Related User Story: Clear Navigation.

4.3.3.2 Description

The structure and hierarchy of the page must be easy to follow. Often this involves:

  • Dividing your page content into logical regions and sections;
  • Using clear dividers between different sections in a page such as call out boxes, navigation bars, and advertisements. Note that controls and scrolls should be clearly and uniquely identified with the region they affect.
  • Providing clear headings and visual cues that indicate the purpose of the sections;
  • Making the relationship between different parts of the page clear. Use visual indicators to help people identify:
    • Structure and priority of the page content;
    • Items that are associated with each other;
    • Items that have a different purpose to surrounding information
4.3.3.3 How it Helps

Some people with disabilities need a clear layout to help them know how to use the information. When structure and relationships are unclear, users may need to experiment with different layouts and structures until they work out how to use them. However, people with cognitive disabilities may not be able to do so, and may not be able to use the content or application. Those impacted may not complete tasks, miss key information, and not return to pages that are complicated to use and understand.

By creating clear layouts, with easy to use controls, users can focus on the task instead of spending time figuring out how to use the controls and information. They easily find key information, and are more likely to return to the page. Clear layout helps people with cognitive and learning disabilities that impact problem solving skills, get overwhelmed when presented with a lot of text, impact problem solving skills, those that and those with difficulties with more complicated tasks

4.3.3.4 A Good Structure

A clear organization of content into pages and sections with obvious purpose allows users to more easily locate relevant sections and to be confident that those they read in detail will match their purposes. Each page or section of content should be organized and marked so that its purpose is obvious. This might be through the use of visual cues, headings or labels or even a pyramid style of writing. Sometimes symbols (with alt text) can be used to make the sections purpose clear.

Content that is not directly relevant to the main purpose of a page should be distinctly separated and programmatically determinable. There should be no need to read all the content in case something important is missed. For example, ads that appear in-line in a section of content are rarely related to the purpose of a section and can be placed in a separate delimited section.

4.3.3.5 Visual Cues

People who have difficulty with recognizing or comprehending written language, having difficulties with concentration or memory can find it easier to process graphical cues.

Visual of grouping of information is based on the psychological principle of Common Regions. It has been found that the grouping information using a border or color shading makes it easier for people to identify groups, even if the content of the group is not similar.

3 rows of 8 evenly spaced circles divided into two blue rectangles.  The blue backgrounds make the two groupings visually apparent. 4 circles divided into two sets of two by a contrasting border. Each set has a blue and a white circle. The white circles are adjacent but border clearly indicates the sets.

Figures: Example of the Common Regions grouping principle.

These graphical indicators allow people to identify structure and information types without reading text or have problems distinguishing groups of information. Using the graphical indicators consistently to indicate similar types of items aids with navigating content and reduces the cognitive load. Note that symbols are also helpful visual indicators.

Note that controls that affect only one section of a page can be confusing. Having a border around the controls and the relevant page section is helpful. If the controls cannot be next to the area they affect, check with user testing that the users find all the page relationships clear and immediately know how to use the controls.

For multimedia, each section should have a clear and descriptive heading. The user should be able to jump to each section.

Example 1: Chunks of content run into each other with a "flat design". Whereas some users can work out which chunks belong together, many users with cognitive disabilities will find it challenging or impossible. Thus, all the benefits of chunking content are lost.

Example 2: An elementary school publishes a weekly newsletter with interesting stories about activities and important announcements. Important announcements include early school dismissal. If the newsletter has a good heading structure, it will be easier for a parent who is a slow reader to find the important announcements about early school dismissal. Without a good heading structure, the important early dismissal information can be easily missed.

Examples of how this pattern will help people:

  • A person with memory issues may need a clear heading structure to stay focused.
  • Someone with an attention disability gets distracted and then needs to pick up where they left off and headings help.
  • A slow reader may depend on a heading structure to find important information they need without forcing them to read the whole document.
  • A user on the autism spectrum can identify graphical indicators and the use of color for grouping content but struggles with the labels and heading text.
  • A user living with dementia is distracted and then cannot remember what they were doing. The visual cues help them re-orientate themselves on the page.
4.3.3.6 More Details

Making regions and a good page structure can include:

  • If pages are dense with content, check that content is grouped and you can see what is related.
  • Clearly label content categories, and use visual cues and symbols which will be familiar. This will help recognition and retrieval rather than rely on memory of your site.
  • The heading structure should create an outline of the document that could serve as an abstract of the whole document.
  • Heading structure and graphical indicators makes the content easier to scan and find more detailed information that a person needs at a moment.
  • It is also important the graphical indicators do not clutter the interface and are used consistently as that can add an additional cognitive load for users to process. Examples of clear dividers include high contrast borders or white space. A change in background color can be a clear divider if the contrast is strong enough.

Examples of common graphical indicators and visual cues include:

  • Group summaries of content with images, such as using a card design using colors or white space;
  • Flag important information, such as using call out boxes;
  • Indicate different types of information, such as placing quotes in speech bubbles.

Graphical indicators should also be programmatically available to enable assistive technologies to interpret the graphical indicators.

Sometimes the structure and relationships can be made clear through personalization or user agents and good use of semantics in the code (see WCAG 2.0 SC 1.3.1).

4.3.3.7 Examples

Use:

A site that uses:

  • Separated Content With a Card Design and Symbols - White space, borders or call outs are used in addition to headings and symbols to help define sections of content. This organizes the information on the page so it is easier to determine layout and find specific information;
  • Separated Interactive Elements - Place interactive elements like scroll bars and buttons close to the content they can impact. Also, keep interactive elements further from content to which they do not apply. This makes it easier to identify which elements will impact each section of content.

See GOV.UK. for a success example.

Avoid:

Dense text, with little white space, no call outs, and a lack of visually differentiated headings to define sections;

4.3.4 Pattern: Ensure the Most Important Things on the Page are Easy to Find

4.3.4.1 User Need

I can reach important information and the controls I need without scrolling or carrying out other actions. They are not hidden or off screen.

Related User Story: Findable.

4.3.4.2 Description

Design key content to visually stand out and be visible to users without needing to scroll the page or hover over content. This includes:

  • Critical tasks and the controls needed to complete them,
  • Interactions for critical features (e.g. login forms, send buttons), and
  • Important information (e.g. health warnings or information that can affect safety).
4.3.4.3 How it Helps

People with low executive function, impaired memory, and other cognitive and learning disabilities may not be able to find features that require the use of the scroll bar or pointer hovers.

Users who are unfamiliar with the page (or common design patterns) rely on prominent visual styling aids to locate important information.

4.3.4.4 More Details

The amount of page visible before scrolling is dependent on a wide range of factors such as physical device size, resolution, pixel density and device setup.

The size of the visible region will be site specific. Where possible, use site statistics to understand what technology users are using and keep this in mind when designing the page.

For example, an elementary school publishes a weekly newsletter with interesting stories about activities and important announcements. Important announcements include early school dismissal. If the newsletter includes less important information before the early school dismissal, a parent who reads slowly may give up before scrolling down to the important information. A clear heading structure can help with this by reducing what needs to be read.

In another example, a user is writing a comment, but the send button is not visible when the view focuses on the text area. As a result, she cannot see how to send her feedback. The company will then not receive any feedback from groups who are not able to find the feedback button.

4.3.4.5 Getting Started

Make it easy to find the most important things on the page. Identify key content and its placement early in the design process.

Space at the top of the document is most likely to be visible to users without scrolling. Place key content at the top of the page to give the best experience to the widest range of users.

Consider the most constrained user experience first (e.g., a 240px wide mobile phone) and then design upwards from there in order to account for the widest range of scenarios.

Conducting user testing can identify common use cases and barriers. Adopting responsive development practices can improve the flexibility of the page to a range of different devices and stations.

4.3.4.6 Examples

Use:

  1. A login form is visible without the need to scroll the page.
  2. A login form submit button stands out from other links and buttons on the page.
  3. Critical health and safety information regarding medication is highlighted and visible without scrolling.
  4. Critical health and safety information regarding medication visually stands out from other less important information on the page due to the use of color, boldness and layout.

4.3.5 Pattern: Break Media into Chunks

4.3.5.1 User Need

I like small segments of multimedia that have navigable text or labels that describes the segment so I can easily navigate to what I want, take breaks and easily jump back a step if I do not follow or get distracted.

Related User Story: Media.

4.3.5.2 Description

Divide long pieces of media into segments that are:

  • logical
  • short,
  • labeled, and
  • easy to reach or jump to.

Provide a logical organization and structure that is easy to navigate.

4.3.5.3 How it Helps

Providing shorter logical segments allows a person to find and review a specific topic. If that person loses concentration or steps away, clear segmentation allows them to easily find their place in the material and start again. This is especially important for educational style content where review is often necessary.

Chunking media also allows for each segment to be given a unique URL and so easily referenced and shared.

Using a clear, logical structure allows users to orient and navigate through the content easily even if they get distracted.

For example:

  • Some videos can be naturally organized into chapters or segments
  • A podcast can be split into segments rather than a single one-hour recording
4.3.5.4 More Details
  • Six minutes or less: Media should typically be divided into segments that are 6 minutes or less in duration.
  • Navigable: Navigation to each media segment, and a unique, descriptive label must be provided.
  • Logical order: Navigation to media segments are presented in a logical order.
  • Exception: Media that has no logical breaking points, do not need to be subdivided.
4.3.5.5 Examples
  • Use: A 30-minute video is divided into 5 sections, each with a descriptive link to play from that point onwards.
  • Avoid: A 30-minute video contains no subdivisions or descriptions of sections, forcing the user to play it from the beginning or guess starting locations within the video.

4.4 Objective 3: Use Clear and Understandable Content

4.4.1 Pattern: Use Clear Words

4.4.1.1 User Need

I understand the language used including vocabulary, syntax, tense and other aspects of language.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.1.2 Description
  • Use common and clear words in all content. Look at the most common 1500 words or phrases. These are the terms that people with severe language impairments are most likely to know.
  • Remove unnecessary words.
  • Do not invent new words or give words new meanings in your application. Do not expect people to learn new meanings for words just to use your content. If you must create new terms, make sure the user has access to an explanation within one click or event.
4.4.1.3 How it Helps

This benefits many people including those with language impairments, learning disabilities and a poor memory. Using uncommon words can make text and media difficult to understand.

People with language impairments often have a reduced vocabulary and learning new terms is a very slow, difficult process. For other groups, such as people living with dementia, learning new terms is not realistic or possible. Using uncommon words, that they do not already know, will make the content incomprehensible [unable to be understood] and unusable.

For example, someone with mild dementia is trying to turn on an ICT heating and air conditioning unit. The menu item for selecting heat or air conditioning is labeled "mode". The user cannot use the whole unit because of this one term. This type of design has caused emergencies such as hypothermia.

Use common words and terms, with their most common meanings will help avoid these problems.

4.4.1.4 More Details

When using uncommon words, provide an explanation by:

  • Adding a simple language term in brackets next to it;
  • Providing a pop up definition; or
  • Using supported mark up (see easylang).
4.4.1.5 Getting Started

Start using clear words in headings, labels, navigational elements, instructions, and error messages. This will increase the usability without a large time commitment.

4.4.1.6 Examples

Use: Plain text with clear words and definition of term.

Your landlord must follow the law.

  • Your landlord can only use your security deposit (promise money), only for certain things, such as unpaid rent (rent that you owe) and to fix things that you damaged.
  • Your landlord must return your security deposit (promise money) to you by a clear date. This is usually 30 days after you leave the apartment.

Avoid: Uncommon words and no explanations

A Landlord's Right to Deduct. When a tenant moves into a rental property, he or she will pay the landlord a security deposit. Depending on the jurisdiction, this deposit will be returned to the tenant within a specific time period at the cessation of the lease term, as long as the tenant follows all the terms and tenants of the lease agreement or contract. Select links below to read the laws that pertain to your situation.

4.4.2 Pattern: Use a Simple Tense and Voice

4.4.2.1 User Need

I understand the language used including vocabulary, syntax, tense and other aspects of language

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.2.2 Description

Use the tense and the voice that is easiest to understand. In English, this is usually the present tense and active voice. Speak directly to the user, and use the simplest form of verbs.

4.4.2.3 How it Helps

Using simple tense and voice benefits many people including those with language impairments, learning disabilities or a poor memory. For example, more people will understand “press the on button” (present tense and active voice) then “the on button should be pressed."

Active voice makes it clear who is supposed to take action. For example, “It must be done.” (passive voice) does not say who must act. “You must do it.” is active voice and clearly states who has the action.

4.4.2.4 More Details
  • Use other voices or tenses when they will be easier to understand or friendlier.
  • In languages where present tense and active voice do not exist or are not the clearest option, use the tense and the voice that are easiest to understand.
  • If you are writing about past or future events, do not use the present tense. It will just be confusing.
4.4.2.5 Examples

Use: Plain text in a simple tense

Your stocks went up this month.

Avoid: Not plain text

Over the last month, we saw your stocks increasing.

4.4.3 Pattern: Avoid Double Negatives or Nested Clauses

4.4.3.1 User Need

I understand the language used including vocabulary, syntax, tense and other aspects of language.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.3.2 Description

Use a simple sentence structure.

  • Do not use a double negative to express a positive.
  • Do not use clauses inside clauses.

Both double negatives and nested clauses can be confusing.

4.4.3.3 How it Helps

Simple sentence structure benefits many people including those with language impairments, learning disabilities or a poor memory.

For example, more people will understand “You must get the agency’s approval before we can answer your claim”: rather than “No approval of any claims can be achieved without the agency’s approval." In this example, a person with early stage dementia can manage their own appointments and affairs when the language is clear and understandable.

4.4.3.4 Examples

Use:

Write clearly.

Avoid:

Do not write unclearly.

4.4.4 Pattern: Use Literal Language

4.4.4.1 User Need

I do not want unexplained, implied or ambiguous information because I may misunderstand jokes and metaphors.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.4.2 Description

Use literal and concrete language. When possible, use concrete terms and examples that refer to objects or events that you can see, hear or touch.

Do not use metaphors and similes unless you include an explanation.

4.4.4.3 How it Helps

Many people do not understand non-literal content. For example, a programmer with autism spectrum disorder may not understand jokes and similes. Sometimes instructions have jokes and similes to make the content friendlier. However, this confuses the programmer who now cannot do her job as needed.

You can explain any non-literal language by:

  • Adding a simple language term in brackets next to any non-literal text such as a metaphors and similes;
  • Providing a pop up definition; or
  • Using supported mark up (see easylang).

In non-text media, explain non-literal as part of the media or include it in a separate file or track.

Note
Should there be a special media track with explanations? Can we explore this and coordinate it?
4.4.4.4 More Details

Make sure the meaning remains clear when you replace non-literal text with literal text. Check this when providing literal text in a popup or other alternative.

4.4.4.5 Getting Started

Start by putting clear literal text on headings, labels, navigational elements, instructions, error messages and any content that may affect the user’s rights or wellbeing. This will increase the usability in critical places without changing your writing style.

4.4.4.6 Example

Use: literal text and concrete language

If you are experiencing anxiety before starting take a deep breath, tell yourself you can do it and get started. Anxiety can include nervousness, fear, dizziness or shortness of breath.

Avoid: non-literal text

If you are experiencing cold feet before starting, take a deep breath and jump in.

4.4.5 Pattern: Keep Text Succinct

4.4.5.1 User Need

I understand the language used including vocabulary, syntax, tense and other aspects of language.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.5.2 Description

Use short blocks of text:

  • Keep paragraphs short. Have only one topic in each paragraph.
  • Use short sentences. Have only one point per sentence.
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists.
  • Use short descriptive headings.
4.4.5.3 How it Helps

Chunking text content makes it easier to read and understand. People with poor memory or anyone who is easily distracted will benefit. This also helps people with learning disabilities related to processing speed or language. Chunking is helpful to anyone who is multitasking.

Example: A graduate student with ADD may need to teach themselves a new software skill. The software documentation is broken up into short paragraphs and lists by topic. The student finds the documentation easy to read and understand.

4.4.5.4 More Details
  • What is a short paragraph? In English, if you have a paragraph of more than 50 words, try breaking it up into two paragraphs.
  • How can I avoid writing a sentence with more than one point? Sentences that have more than one point usually have more than one linking word such as ‘and’ or ‘but’.
  • Can a long sentence ever be clearer than two short sentences? Double-check if a long sentence is clearer than two short sentences. Do usability testing to see if people with cognitive disabilities find the long sentence easier to understand.
  • When should I use lists? Lists are great when you have three or more things in a row. Think about using an unordered list (with bullet points) for items, requirements, and exceptions. A series of three or more steps is easier to follow as a numbered list.
4.4.5.5 Examples

Use:

Calgary will have a lot of snow and hail this weekend. Try not to drive. If you must drive:

  • Use the rules for driving in winter to keep safe.
  • Before you leave, check what roads are safe at the Traveler’s Information Website.

Avoid:

DOTD Issues Winter Weather Travel Advisory for Calgary. With the possibility of snow and rain in the forecast throughout the holiday weekend, the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced that department staff is prepared to deal with winter weather. Maintenance forces will be on standby to apply sand and salt over any affected bridges and roadways, to remove fallen trees from the roadway, and to close any roads as needed. Interim Secretary Jane Doe urges motorists to take the threat of winter weather seriously. "In the event of adverse weather conditions, the department will strive to maintain access to highways and interstates; however, we encourage the motoring public to avoid traveling during snow and ice, if at all possible," said Doe. During winter weather conditions, the best thing motorists can do is drive slowly and carefully, and avoid driving while distracted. Always allow for extra driving time, reduce speeds when visibility is low, and make sure there is plenty of room between vehicles. Also, look out for black ice, which can form on bridges, overpasses, off- ramps and in shady spots. As always, DOTD reminds motorists to buckle up and refrain from drinking and driving. Citizens can get the latest updates on real-time traffic and road conditions by using the Traveler Information System simply by dialing ### from their telephone and saying the route or region about which they are seeking information. Travelers can also access this information by visiting the Traveler Information Website. Motorists can also obtain information regarding road closures by contacting DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (1-###-###-####). The center is open 7:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

4.4.6 Pattern: Use Clear, Unambiguous Text Formatting and Punctuation

4.4.6.1 User Need

I need words to include accents, characters and diacritics that are necessary to phonetically read the words.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.6.2 Description

Use punctuation and format for text, numbers and symbols that reduce ambiguity and improve readability and comprehension.

4.4.6.3 How it Helps

For some readers, decoding words, numbers and symbols does not happen automatically and can be demanding on working memory and executive functions. If they find content too demanding they are at risk of losing its meaning and the overall context of the message that is being conveyed. Some users may use assistive technology or personalization tools to help understand content. An example would be text-to-speech that reads aloud content allowing for the use of auditory and visual channels. However, sometimes the punctuation or format makes it more likely that the screen reader will read it incorrectly. For example, Roman numerals may be read as text.

Users should not need to decipher letters, numbers, and words because of formatting or punctuation errors. They should be able to focus on understanding the meaning of the content, especially when they are using assistive technology or personalizing content. It is important that the content is created with these adaptations in mind, to ensure that all users gain the experience you want them to achieve.

Ensure that information is provided in a way that can be read accurately by assistive technology. It may have to be personalized to suit certain users, but this can be achieved when all the elements are accessible.

For example, a user with a communication disability may listen to content using a screen reader. If the content is phrased correctly, they can understand it. Sometimes they hear content read incorrectly or skipped, particularly numbers and symbols, and they cannot understand it. If text, numbers or symbols are in an unfamiliar layout, the user may become confused.

(In contrast, a blind person listening to the content, is likely to be able to figure out the correct meaning. However, the word manipulations necessary to work out the correct meaning are not achievable by someone with a communications or language impairment. )

4.4.6.4 More Details

Use punctuation correctly for the language you are writing in, as it will affect how the stress and intonation (known as prosody) patterns from the text are heard, when converted into speech. For example, in English, commas and semicolons will result in a short pause in the speech, whereas a hyphen – will generally be ignored. Question marks, exclamation marks and speech marks can result in changes in intonation, such as a rise in the pitch of the voice.

Avoid the use of Roman Numerals and unfamiliar symbols in text were possible. These can confuse readers and are likely to be read incorrectly by text-to-speech tools. If these symbols are necessary then ensure they are marked up correctly, using techniques such as MathML and abbreviation expansions to provide additional support. Roman Numerals should be presented in upper case if used in isolation as they are likely to be read as individual letters

Be aware that long numbers may be read as single digits or phrased as a single number. This is a particular problem for phone numbers or zip codes. While it is difficult to control exactly how these numbers are read aloud, content creators can help by:

  • Displaying the content of the number and using HTML semantics to ensure users and assistive technologies are aware of the number’s purpose. In addition, the following recommendations can assist with improving text-to-speech rendering:
  • For phone numbers, using the correct layout for the locality of the phone number and ensure users can select the whole phone number (including area code), so that text-to-speech voices can recognize the format and phrase it correctly.
  • For Zip / Postal codes, including state or address information close to the number so that speech voices can expand known abbreviations (such as state names) and listeners can perceive the context.
  • When writing long numbers, considering what separators will be familiar to your readers and how it will be read aloud. In general, English speaking countries will use commas between thousands and a period as the decimal separator whereas German and other European countries do the opposite. For example, 1,245 would represent one thousand two hundred and forty-five in English, but one point two four five in German. Text-to-speech output will assume the separators are being used in the format of the language of its voice. If this does not match the content, then listeners can become easily confused. While replacing thousand separators with a space has become a common convention to avoid confusion, it leads to difficulties with text-to-speech with long numbers being read out in a disjointed fashion. For example, 120 034 943 can be read as one hundred and twenty, zero three four, nine hundred and forty-three.
4.4.6.5 Examples

Consider how you write dates, because once again the text-to-speech will use the format associated with the language of the voice. A date such as 04/03/2019 will be read as “April 3rd 2019” by a US English voice and “4th of March 2019” by a British English voice. Writing out the month in words can avoid confusion.

4.4.7 Pattern: Include Symbols and Letters Necessary to Decipher the Words

4.4.7.1 User Need

I need words to include accents, characters and diacritics that are necessary to phonetically read the words (this is often needed for speech synthesis and phonetic readers in languages like Arabic and Hebrew).

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.7.2 Description

Include vowels, letters or diacritic marks that users need to decipher words correctly. This is often needed in languages like Arabic and Hebrew.

4.4.7.3 How it Helps

Some languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, have optional vowels and diacritic marks. Without these marks, many words with the same characters have between two (Hebrew) and seven (Arabic) different ways of being pronounced with different meanings. Most readers can read the word based on the context, and use their visual memory to guess the correct pronunciation. People with impaired visual memory, slow readers and screen readers may often guess the incorrect term and/or pronunciation.

For example a user with a language disability is trying to sound out a word. They guess three different pronunciations until they find one that makes sense. Unfortunately, many people with language impairments cannot work out the meaning as words out of context may only provide an idea rather than a specific meaning. Screen readers often require these characters to speak the correct word.

Note that not all diacritic marks are necessary to pronounce the word correctly. Only letters and diacritic marks that are necessary for the unambiguous pronunciation need to be included.

4.4.7.4 More Details

Words can be deciphered and pronounced to have the correct meaning

4.4.7.5 Getting Started

In Hebrew add additional Yud (י) and Vav (ו) that enables correct pronunciation.

4.4.7.6 Examples

Use (Hebrew):

אֹמַר /אומר

Avoid (Hebrew):

אמר

Use (Arabic):

He wrote: كَتَبَ

Books: كُتُبْ

It was written: كُتِبَ

Avoid (Arabic):

كتب

4.4.8 Pattern: Provide Summary of Long Documents and Media

4.4.8.1 User Need

I want an easy to understand, short summary for long pieces of content or an option for an easy to read version.

Related User Story: Clear Language.

4.4.8.2 Description

Provide a brief summary for a long document. Emphasize any important keywords to help people understand the purpose and contents of the document, and determine if it might contain information they need. Also, provide a summary of media files so that users can identify the content they need.

Summaries should use common words, short sentences and be written in an easy to understand style and tense.

4.4.8.3 How it Helps

Providing an easy-to-understand summary helps many people to quickly decide if the document is relevant to them and their current goal. A high level outline in a few sentences or bullet points is most effective. Abstracts and executive summaries are usually much longer and more detailed as they are designed to summarize the entire document.

For media, summaries help users with short attention span find the exact file they need and jump to correct content. All media files should have a summary description.

4.4.8.4 More Details

Long Documents have 300 words or more.

In general headings are used to break the information down into a more manageable size and provide structure to the information being presented. This particularly benefits users of Assistive Technology. The first section should be a text summary of the document. It may include links to other sections if appropriate.

In media, summaries of each segment should include the main points included in the content. Users should be able to use the summary to uniquely identify the content and know what it will contain.

Providing a text summary that can be understood by people with lower secondary education level reading ability. For pieces of content with less than 300 words the heading may act as an abstract.

See the theme in understandable text for the minimum on how to write an understandable summary. User Testing is recommended.

4.4.8.5 Examples

Use:

From GOV.UK

Avoid:

In multimedia, the segments are summarized as Chapter 1, part 1. Chapter 1, part 2, etc.

4.4.9 Pattern: Separate Each Instruction

4.4.9.1 User Need

I can read short boxes or chunks of content or sections easily.

Related User Story: Support.

4.4.9.2 Description

In instructions, separate each step. Separate steps make instructions much easier to follow. Consider:

  • Including all steps, even those you think are "obvious;"
  • Using numbers and lists can also help;
  • Providing complex instructions in an If/Then table, which can be easier to follow; or
  • Using friendly graphics can help make instructions less scary;
4.4.9.3 How it Helps

Step-by-step instructions benefit many people including those with language impairments, learning disabilities or a poor memory.

For example, a person with a low working memory cannot hold onto many pieces of information at the same time. If they need to remember what they are doing, divide the steps and track what they have done they are much more likely to make mistakes. When instructions are clearly separated and laid out, users can follow them without making mistakes.

4.4.9.4 Examples

Use:

Separate each step using an If/Then Table

If Then
If you want to work in programing:
  • Make a resume.
  • Get some sample code that you wrote.
  • Send them to programing@example.com.
If you want to work in design:
  • Make a resume.
  • Get some sample pages that you designed.
  • Send them to design@example.com.

Avoid:

Do not separate each step

If you want to work in programing, write to programing@example.com with a resume and sample code that you wrote. If you want to work in design, write to design@example.com with a resume and sample pages.

4.4.10 Pattern: Use White Spacing

4.4.10.1 User Need

I can read easily when there is a good use of white space.

Related User Story: Visual Presentation.

4.4.10.2 Description

Put white space around objects and text, including boxes, paragraph headings, and content, so that each section is clearly separated.

4.4.10.3 How it Helps

White space (also called negative space or the background color) reduces clutter and provides definition to content. This gives the viewer a clear overview of a web page. It is used by designers to enhance text and the position of objects on a page.

Using white space aids navigation through a page and helps people read it. It can help the user find important elements on a page. For those with cognitive impairments, white space has been shown to ease reading difficulties and improves understanding of content.

Make sure users can also adjust the amount of white space around objects and text via a web extension or user setting. This supports the ability to identify important elements in the content of a web page.

4.4.10.4 More Details

Use clear spacing between letters, words, sentences lines, paragraphs and blocks of text.

Allow for the ability to easily adjust white space around objects and text, including boxes, paragraph headings, and content, to a degree that suits the user and does not disrupt the overall integrity of a web page.

Note that “white space” is a term that means the background color. It does not always need to be always white!

4.4.11 Pattern: Ensure Foreground Content is not Obscured by Background

4.4.11.1 User Need

I can easily perceive the text as the background is plain.

Related User Story: Visual Presentation.

4.4.11.2 Description

Do not overlay words on busy backgrounds. Provide an option to remove background noise behind auditory content or ensure background sounds do not interfere with the main auditory content.

For text:

  • Use solid backgrounds for blocks of text.
  • Use thick outlines with solid fills for text that is overlaid on background that has designs running through it.

For auditory content:

  • Do not include fast changing background auditory content behinds foreground auditory content such as background conversations or unnecessary traffic.
  • Provide an option to remove background noise behind auditory content.
4.4.11.3 How it Helps

Reading a sentence phrase by phrase conveys more meaning than reading individual words. Phrases are also easier to comprehend. The more words an individual can process in one glance, the faster they can read, the easier they can understand what’s written, and the more they stay interested. Most people can take in a whole line of text, or more at once. Fixating on many words at a time is necessary for comprehension for many people. A slow reader may read a sentence slowly using 6 to 9 eye fixations, sometimes taking in only a single word (or part of a word) at a time. Adding background noise reduces the number of words readers can fixate on. Removing background noise helps users comprehend more words at the same time.

Also, automatic word recognition is used typically in tandem with phonetics to achieve full reading comprehension. For example, approximately 200 words exist in the English language that must be memorized, and automatically recognized, because they don't fit traditional letter sound patterns, in order to piece together strings of words into sentences. If a user can't recognize these words in 3 seconds, then the text is harder to understand. Background noise can increase the amount of time it takes users to recognize words.

4.4.11.4 Examples

Use:

It is easy to recognize words and process large amounts of text as the content can be easily distinguished from the background.

Avoid:

It is difficult to recognize words and process text when the background has a lot of noise.

4.4.12 Pattern: Explain Implied Content

4.4.12.1 User Need

I do not want unexplained, implied or ambiguous information because I may misunderstand jokes and metaphors..

Related User Story: Visual Presentation.

4.4.12.2 Description

Provide definitions or explanations for implied content such:

  • Body gestures
  • Emotions
  • Sarcasm
  • Metaphors
  • Facial expressions

These definitions and explanations should be provided in text close to the implied content or in the markup.

4.4.12.3 How it Helps

Implied content can be difficult for some users because it requires them to:

  • Know where to look to get the information, and
  • Understand the meaning behind what is being implied.

When using body gestures, emotion communications, and facial expressions as the only way to communicate something, it is important to include this in another way to ensure all users understand. One way this can be done is through supplementary text.

For example, is a gif used in a social media post that communicates a person’s true feelings about a statement they made in text. Some individuals may not be able to understand the emotion being demonstrated by the person’s body language or facial expression and miss the point the author is trying to make.

Similarly, a research study asked people with autism to watch a movie that had a lot of implied communications. They were watching the actors’ mouth, but the information such as that the spoken text was sarcastic was communicated by their facial expressions. When asked about what happened in the movie, some missed the implied communications and the point of the communications.

4.4.12.4 More Details

This includes:

  • Graphics used alone to identify that something is important, or should be remembered;
  • Sarcasm in text; and
  • Animations used to add importance or communicate something contrary to the literal meaning of the paired text.

Note that standard emojis often come with an explanation or alternative text.

4.4.12.5 Examples

Use:

When writing sarcastic comments in a social media post or email, add supplementary text such as <sarcasm> to help readers understand the intent of your communication.

Once it is mature you can also use personalization semantics to add non-literal text alternatives.

4.4.13 Pattern: Provide Alternatives for Numbers

4.4.13.1 User Need

I find words easier to understand than digits.

Related User Story: Math Concepts Language.

Provide alternatives for numbers and numerical concepts.

4.4.13.2 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. When reading measurement an individual with cognitive impairment 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.

For example, a train schedule has a long list of relative times that the train leaves for different zones on the hour. The user cannot calculate when the next train leaves from their location.

4.4.13.3 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.
  • Use personalization semantics to supply a non-numerical concepts (when mature ) See Personalization Semantics Wiki and data-numberfree.

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.

Content that may need extra support include:

  1. size
  2. quantity
  3. distance
  4. time
  5. date
  6. temperature
  7. positive/negative
  8. calculation
  9. sequencing
  10. memory
  11. cultural differences
  12. alternative representation

For these, consider providing a description or representation of what the number means as a concept.

4.5 Objective 4: Help Users Avoid Mistakes or Correct Them

A good design and use of scripts will make errors less likely, but when they do occur the user should know how to correct them easily without stress or extra steps.

Completing forms and similar tasks is often overwhelming for most users with cognitive and learning disabilities. This includes relatively minor learning disabilities, such as Dyslexia, or attention related disabilities.

Many users with learning disabilities cannot remember numbers, such as those for their post/zip code, Social Security, or credit card. Many users even need to check their phone numbers. This makes entering information slow, and they may need to leave their desks or take breaks.

Also many users have short term memory issues that can make copying text difficult or impossible. For example, you may be able to remember 6 letters in your head at the same time. Someone with an impaired working memory may be able to remember only one or two. This makes them much more likely to make mistakes copying as it requires you to remember the numbers or letter accurately and then return to the same position in the original version (which also requires memory).

Note that this can often be achieved through supporting personalization.

4.5.1 Pattern: Ensure Controls and Content Do Not Move Unexpectedly

4.5.1.1 User Need

Controls do not move unexpectedly as I am using them.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.1.2 Description

Make sure controls and content remain in place and do not move, unless the user initiates the movement.

4.5.1.3 How it Helps

Sometimes users are about to press a control and the control moves. As a result, users with slow hand-eye coordination and cognitive processing speed may hit the wrong control causing an unwanted action and disorientation. For example, a user prepares to press a button on a video. The orientation changes to landscape and the control moves. Because the user has slow eye tracking or hand-eye coordination, they end up pressing a link to a new video.

Shifting controls and content also can cause cognitive overload and increase mental fatigue. For example, as a user with Traumatic Brain Injury reads content, the content refreshes and an additional article appears above the current content. The article the user is reading moves down. The user becomes disoriented and the application becomes very hard to use or understand.

4.5.1.4 More Details

Controls moving unexpectedly includes:

  • Links in a list shifting positions
  • Orientation changes
  • Slow loading of a page that the user thinks is complete

Note that if controls shift because of an action the user, and the user will not be trying to activate a moving control, it is usually not problematic. For example, form controls shift down while a user types text into a text box above the controls or when the user expands a section.

4.5.1.5 Examples

Use:

A loading icon is visible while the page is loading. After the content is finished loading the loading icon is removed and the content stays in the same place.

Avoid:

The user is about to select a phone number to call. As the user is about to touch the phone number, it shifts down. The user presses the wrong phone number and calls the wrong person.

4.5.2 Pattern: Let Users Go Back

4.5.2.1 User Need

I want predictable back or undo features so I'm exactly where I was previously, before I made a mistake.

Related User Story: Undo.

4.5.2.2 Description

Always let the user return to a previous point.

The standard back button is the best way to do this as it is familiar to the user. Many users will try the back button first.

The user should never lose their work if they press back.

4.5.2.3 How it Helps

Allowing users to return to a previous point helps prevent mistakes and makes it easy to correct mistakes when they happen.

Examples of mistakes include:

  • Touching a control by accident;
  • Opening a new link by accident; and
  • Closing a window the user intended to keep open.

If a person easily makes mistakes or makes them often, it is important that they can go back and make changes without having their work or previous choices deleted.

For example, a user is watching a video. They try to increase the volume but touch a different link instead. A new video now loads. The user can press the back button and return to the video they were watching before. They now know they can try and increase the volume and if they make a mistake, they can easily go back and try again.

In another example, the back button did not work as expected, but took them somewhere else (such as the home page). When they try to change the volume or add a comment they often lose the video they were watching and cannot find the way to get back to it. The user now feels they cannot use any of the website's features in case they lose their main content again. They do not expand the screen, change the volume, or leave comments.

In forms, each time the user has to re-enter data presents a new chance for mistakes to occur. Entering and re-entering data can be stressful and tiring from some people with learning and cognitive disabilities. This increases the likelihood of mistakes and may make it impossible to submit correct data and complete the intended task.

For those with anxiety, memory challenges, and difficulty following directions, the ability to go back and review information they have entered is very important. For example, for some people the task of following directions and reviewing their answers works best as two separate tasks. Being able to enter information with their focus being on following the directions, and later going back to review their answers, helps them be more effective.

When the user has an opportunity to go back and review the data they entered, even if submitted by mistake, it is easier to correct the information.

4.5.2.4 More Details

Options for supporting users going back include:

  • Going back steps in a user journey via a clearly labeled action;
  • Using clickable breadcrumbs with clickable previous steps and no loss of data;
  • Using back and undo features without unwanted data loss;
  • Using semantics and personalization to log the steps and return to a step in the process; and
  • Reopening a closed window or option.
4.5.2.5 Examples

Use:

The user is watching a video. They touch a control accidentally and pressing back does not take them back to the video.

A user is completing an online form when applying for a job. The user accidentally hits the home icon and navigates away from the form. The back button takes them back to where they were without any loss of data.

The user is also able to go back through all the screens to be sure they did not misunderstand a section or skip an answer. The user can edit any data they mistyped.

Avoid:

Completing an online form when applying for a job. The user goes back a screen because they realize they may have forgotten to answer a question. When they use the back button all data previously entered has been cleared/deleted.

4.5.3 Pattern: Notify Users of Fees and Charges at the Start of a Task

4.5.3.1 User Need

I want to know what information I will need (credit card, full address etc) before I start.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

Tell the user about all charges at the start of a transaction including typical values. Any conditions and terms should also be available at the start of the transaction in easy language.

4.5.3.2 How it Helps

Users with cognitive disabilities who have trouble with memory, attention to detail or reading comprehension may not be aware of charges unless they are explicitly noted at the start of a transaction task. Terms and conditions can be under a link but charges must be clearly displayed and available in plain language.

Clearly identifying charges at the start of a sale benefits all users. Those with cognitive disabilities will particularly benefit because some groups are less likely to have inferred or guessed the charges would be included. They may not know to look in other locations in the user flow or in another location, for example on the homepage, or on a rates page.

People with impaired Executive Function or memory need to have all the consequences presented in an orderly form to be able to make an informed decision. When charges are not clear, the consent of the transaction is unclear.

It also can take much longer for users with disabilities to go through the process of making a purchase. If a person has spent hours making an online purchase, it is much more difficult and upsetting to find out that they cannot afford it. They will often blame themselves for not understanding the price and may experience a loss of confidence. They may stop trusting themselves for day-to-day activities.

For example, a person who has challenges with Executive Function may be trying to order a plane ticket, and not realize that there are extra fees not quoted in the original price, such as taxes, international fees, baggage fees, etc. They may spend hours booking a holiday only to find that they can’t afford it. Alternatively, sometimes they end up purchasing something they cannot afford. And even if they have completed this process in the past, they are not able to bring their experience into future purchases to anticipate the final price. The result is the user loses confidence in their ability to independently purchase a holiday online, may have incurred a debt they are unable to pay, may not attempt again, or only with the help of a hired professional (e.g. travel agent or assistant).

4.5.3.3 Examples

Use:

  • There are no surprise charges or conditions.
  • Users are aware of all charges (including hidden fees) and can make an informed decision when they decide to purchase an item and put it in a shopping cart.
  • For items that shipping charges vary, the range of shipping charges and the issues that change the rate would be listed, along with a link to where more details can be found. For example, weight and speed of shipping my impact your shipping fees which can be between $4 and $400 depending on location.

Avoid:

  • Final transaction includes unknown charges that result in higher-than-expected total charges.
  • Final transactions include conditions of purchase that are not clear to users from the beginning of the task.
  • Transactions contain charges or conditions that the user did not know about until they have invested a lot of effort into the sale.
  • Final transaction is completed and users are surprised by the total they receive.

4.5.4 Pattern: Design Forms to Prevent Mistakes

4.5.4.1 User Need

I want an interface that makes mistakes less likely by helping me avoid mistakes, as well as minimize the mistakes I might make.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.4.2 Description

Choose a form design that reduces the chance that the user will make a mistake. This includes:

  • Design the form so that the user needs to enter as little information as possible;
  • Clearly indicate required fields;
  • In a text field, accept as many formats as possible. For example accept different formats of phone numbers;
  • Divide long numbers into chunks (support autocomplete across fields);
  • Use an interface were only valid input can be selected;
  • Use autocomplete and personalization of form controls;
  • Accept voice prompts when supported by the operating system;
  • Automatically correct input errors when possible and the correction is reliable; and
  • Provide the user with any known suggestions and corrections.
4.5.4.3 How it Helps

After making many errors, people with cognitive or learning disabilities and aging users often abandon their tasks and believe they cannot complete them. Error messages may be confusing. Correcting errors is often difficult and frustrating for users and increase cognitive fatigue. Many users give up when they get successive errors.

For example, while registering for an online banking account a form requires the input of the user's birthdate. The required input format is xx/xx/xxxx with a leading zero for single digits. If a single input field with no input correction is presented, a user with a cognitive disability may enter 1/3/1996 triggering an error notification. It may not be clear to the user that the required format is 01/03/1996 even if the format is shown below the input field or in the error notification.

However, a well-designed form makes it easier to fill in the information and prevent the user from making mistakes by automatically correcting or suggesting the correct date format.

Minimizing user generated errors by automatically correcting them will also minimize error notifications. Error notifications may be distracting, taking focus away from tasks and task completion.

4.5.4.4 More Details
  • Clearly mark required content.
  • Only correct errors if the correction is reliable. Otherwise, if suggestions for corrections are known, give the suggestions to the user.
    • For example, “Did you mean the first of February (01/02) or the second of January (02/01)?"
  • Calendars and dates.
    • Calendars should default to the first relevant day. Work calendars should default to first working day of a user's locale;
    • Calendar-based booking systems must prevent the user from booking the return date before the departure date.
  • Temperature.
    • Use the default temperature format of location.
4.5.4.5 Examples

Use:

  • Correct errors of the post code being written in the text field with the city or state information;
  • The system prevents the user from selecting inappropriate dates and provides provides a simple explanation if the user attempts to do so.

Avoid:

  • The booking form provides two calendars without clear labels and instructions. The form allows the user to select dates without warning as to whether they are possible e.g. flight out on June 1st - flight return May 30th;
  • The system allows the user to select inappropriate dates without warning. The calendar merely grays out inappropriate dates which may not be noticed. No warnings are provided.

4.5.5 Pattern: Make it Easy to Undo Form Errors

4.5.5.1 User Need

I want to be able to check my work and go back without losing the work I have just done.

Related User Story: Undo.

4.5.5.2 Description

Always allow the user to check their work and correct any mistakes. Once the user has fixed their mistake it should be easy to get back to the place they were at without redoing additional steps.

For financial transactions and important information, allow the user to easily cancel the transactions and provide clear information and simple instructions for important information including the amount of time the user has to cancel a transaction.

4.5.5.3 How it Helps

People with cognitive and learning impairments make many more mistakes filling out forms than the general population. When mistakes cannot be easily corrected they cannot complete the task.

The ability to undo errors helps people with cognitive disabilities safely use forms and reduces the consequences that result from a mistake.

For example, a user with a memory impairment may not remember that they have already added an item to their shopping cart and may add the item a second time. They may confuse the dates when booking a trip or make other mistakes.

It is essential that people with cognitive impairments have the opportunity to check their work AND fix their mistakes easily.

For people with cognitive disabilities, mistakes being theoretically reversible is not enough. Often the process of reversing a transaction is too complex for them to manage without help. They may not have access to that help meaning they have to live with all the mistakes they have made. In addition, if the process of correcting mistakes is too difficult, users may give up, either losing the transaction or buying unwanted items.

The effect of this happening multiple times is devastating. As a result, many users with disabilities may stop using the Internet for many tasks.

Allowing the user to change the number of items in the shopping cart at any time can significantly reduce mistakes.

A summary of the order, including product quantities and other costs before the final submission, gives the user the chance to identify any errors and make changes to the order. In this example given, a summary of the purchase helps the user see the error in quantity as well as a higher than expected order total.

In some cases, a user may realize that a mistake has been made after the final submission of data. Provide simple language instructions on how to cancel transactions and help the user understand the amount of time needed to cancel a transaction. This makes them less susceptible to scams.

For example, a user with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder purchasing a travel ticket on a website may struggle with details and may have a low attention span. The successful completion of the order relies on the information provided at multiple steps in the process. An error due to lack of accuracy or attention to detail such as an incorrect street number or zip code in the billing address will result in the order not going though. If a summary is not provided before submitting the final order, the user may not understand the reason for the declined payment and give up on the order. The user may also give up if there is not an easy way to make a correction.

4.5.5.4 More Details

This typically includes:

  • Change: It is simple for the user to review all the data and correct mistakes, including mistakes that might not be automatically identified. The user can change information via clearly labeled actions and get back to the place they were at, in one clearly labeled action without unwanted loss of data. (Some data may need to be entered if it is dependent on the item that was changed.)
  • Confirmed: A summary is provided before submitting important information and the user is told when they are about to submit the final information.
  • Time frames and instruction for canceling transactions are clear and easy to follow.
4.5.5.5 Getting Started

Start with forms where a mistake can have serious consequences such as financial loss or vulnerability.

4.5.5.6 Examples

Use:

  • A summary is provided before submitting important information. The user is able to correct information and return to the summary with a single click.
  • Clickable breadcrumbs allow users to see the previous steps, go back, and change them.

Avoid:

  • A summary is provided before submitting important information but the user can't make corrections without losing other data entered.

4.5.6 Pattern: Use Clear Visible Labels

4.5.6.1 User Need

I want clear labels, step-by-step instructions and clear error messages

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.6.2 Description

Use clear labels. Labels should:

  • Use common words and plain text,
  • Be visible and next to the relevant control, and
  • Be readable by assistive technologies made for people with cognitive disabilities.
4.5.6.3 How it Helps

When labels are missing or unclear, users often do not know that the feature is available or what the control is. Although many users can guess what a control is for users with cognitive disabilities or impaired memory or executive function are less likely to be able to remember the design pattern or work out what it is. A clear label that uses familiar terms and is located next to the control, helps people with cognitive disabilities use it.

Similarly, if a label is not next to a control it is confusing for some users. When a label cannot be next to a control, there should be clear visual indicators that visibly and unambiguously associate the label with the control. This will need user testing with users who have learning and cognitive disabilities to ensure it is usable.

For example, a user living with early stage dementia is using an application. Some controls do not have visual labels. A care giver shows them what the control is for and they can use the application. The next day they try and use it again but cannot remember what the control is for. This application is not useable for them.

In another example, the label disappears when the focus is removed. The user cannot remember what the control is and does not know how to make it reappear.

Labels need to be visible, readable by AT, and be nearby the labeled content

4.5.6.4 More Details

Many people with learning and cognitive disabilities use web extension and simple screen readers. These assistive technologies often do not read ARIA or titles. Until that changes, or an extension displays them, labels should not rely on these attributes for people with learning or cognitive disabilities.

4.5.6.5 Examples

Use:

Label is visible, uses simple common words, and is right next to the control

first name ____________________

Avoid:

Label uses uncommon words that are not easy to understand. It is unclear what action is needed.

given name ___________________

4.5.7 Pattern: Use Clear Step-by-step Instructions

4.5.7.1 User Need

I want step-by-step instructions, so I know exactly what to do.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.7.2 Description

Write clear instructions that are:

  • Located before the field or activity;
  • broken down by steps - ensure that steps are not omitted;
  • Clear, concise, and accessible;
  • Include examples or illustrations that make it easy to understand what to do;
  • Let the user know how long a task might take.
4.5.7.3 How it Helps

Clear instructions help prevent user errors. This reduces frustration and enhances the user’s autonomy and independence because they can avoid asking for help. This helps many people with cognitive and learning disabilities as well as people from different cultures, emerging markets, new users, and people on autism spectrum who may miss cultural context.

For example, a person with age appropriate forgetfulness is trying to complete a form. They put all the address and post code in one line (as one would do when writing a letter). They are given an error message. After a few error messages they assume they cannot manage the form.

4.5.7.4 More Details

Provide instructions at the start of the process, not simply in an error message.

Provide instructions needed to enable the user to complete the task. When multiple formats are accepted or errors are automatically corrected, less instructions are needed for the user to complete the task.

Note that instructions can be hidden behind a familiar icon.

4.5.7.5 Getting Started

In a system with common errors, tackle the most impactful errors first and add guidance as needed.

4.5.7.6 Examples

Use:

  • Provide an image of a passport with the number highlighted to indicate the number that the user should enter.
  • Explicitly say which day of the week is the start (e.g., Sunday or Monday) in calendar control when booking a hotel.

Avoid:

  • Request a passport number, but do not indicate which of several numbers is needed. The user is uncertain which is requested.
  • Because a site does not clarify the start of week, a user reads the calendar control wrong and books their hotel for wrong day.

4.5.8 Pattern: Provide Flexible Form Inputs

4.5.8.1 User Need

I want inputs to accept different formats and not mark them as mistakes.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.8.2 Description

Accept contextual variations in user input such as currency, time zone, and locale.

4.5.8.3 How it Helps

Forgiving form entry processes help prevent user errors up front. This reduces frustration and enhances the user’s autonomy and independence because they can avoid asking for help. This helps anybody with memory issues, people new to culture, and people on the autism spectrum who may miss cultural context.

For example, a user with age appropriate forgetfulness enters their phone number with hyphens inserted. They receive an error message, because the system sees them as an error. They wonder if they have forgotten their phone number and stop trying to use the form.

4.5.8.4 Getting Started

For inputs that collect known data types, such as credit card or telephone numbers or geography names, accept common variations on the input format so users don’t have to convert or receive avoidable error messages.

4.5.8.5 Examples

Use:

  • User inputting a financial value can specify the currency used, even if different from the site’s;
  • User inputs a credit card number with or without spaces, and the information is accepted;
  • User inputs telephone number as written including country code, region code, and number using brackets.

Avoid:

  • User inputs value thinking it is US dollars, but the web site processes in Euros;
  • User inputs credit number with spaces only to be told it must include numbers only;
  • User inputs telephone number with spaces but is told it must include numbers only.

4.5.9 Pattern: Avoid Data Loss and "Time Outs"

4.5.9.1 User Need

I do not want a session to time out while I try to find the information needed, such as my postal/zip code or social security number.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.9.2 Description

Avoid timeouts and save users' work as they go. When this is not possible, inform the user of the amount of time required to complete the process (before timeout) and if user will lose entered data if a timeout occurs.

4.5.9.3 How it Helps

The use of timed events can present significant barriers for users with cognitive disabilities, as these users may require more time to read content or to perform functions, such as completing an online form, and may need to take breaks to keep going.

While making a purchase on an e-commerce Web site, a user with a cognitive disability may not remember required information (e.g., a phone number or a zip code) that may seem easy to remember for users without a cognitive impairment. Users with cognitive disabilities may need additional time to look up the information required to complete a transaction, without losing their place in the process, and without losing data that have already been entered.

For example, during the completion of an online process for reserving a hotel room and purchasing a plane ticket, a user with a cognitive impairment may become overwhelmed with the amount of instruction and data input required to complete the process. The user may not be able to complete the process in one sitting, and may need to take a break. Users should be able to leave a process without losing their current place within the process, and without losing data that have already been entered. If users cannot take a break and check their work, many will often be unable to complete a task correctly.

In another example, users’ cognitive skills may temporarily diminish as they get tired. They then must stop the task for that day, and continue it when they are feeling better, and when their reading or processing skills are back to their higher levels. When users know that their data won't be lost, they can recover from mental fatigue before continuing. This helps them successfully complete the task.

This pattern helps people with a variety of disabilities including people who have cognitive or language limitations. These individuals need more time to read and understand content or to pause content to have additional time to understand it.

It is important to note that many people need more than 120 seconds to read the time out notice. So the session ends before the user has finished reading about how to extend the time.

4.5.9.4 More Details

For situations where the absence of a timed event would significantly change the intended functionality of an application (e.g., an auction or another real-time event), it is important to ensure that users with disabilities are properly notified.

When a website only times out because sensitive information is given (such as credit card information), the website should ask for the sensitive information at the last stage. The website should also warn the user that once they give the credit card information they should complete the process quickly as the session can time out. After a period of inactivity, the Web page asks the user to press any key for more time. If the user does not respond within the time limit, a timeout occurs. However, when the user comes back and logs-in again all the content is back.

4.5.9.5 Examples

Use:

  • A website uses a client-side time limit to help protect users who may step away from their computers. After a period of inactivity, the Web page asks if the user needs more time. If the user does not respond within 10 minutes, a timeout occurs. The user is able to request more time at least 10 times.
  • A webpage has a section that automatically updates with the latest headlines in a rotating fashion. There is an interactive control that is easy to activate and is labeled with simple text. It allows the user to extend the length of time, between each update, to as much as ten times the default. The control can be operated by mouse, keyboard, or touch.
  • A ticket-purchasing web site allows users two minutes to confirm purchase of selected seats, but warns users when their time will end. It allows users to extend this time limit at least 10 times using a simple action, which is labeled with simple text, such as a button labeled "Extend time limit."
  • In an auction, there is a time limit on the amount of time a user has to submit a bid. Because the time limit applies to all users who want to bid on an item, it would be unfair to extend the time limit for one user. Therefore, a time limit is required for this type of activity. No extension, adjustment, or deactivation of such a time limit is required by this design requirement. However, at the start of the task, the user is warned about the time limit, and how long they have until the time ends.
  • A Web site with sensitive information uses a client-side time limit to help protect users who may step away from their computers. After a period of inactivity, the Web page asks if the user needs more time. If the user does not respond within 120 seconds, a timeout occurs. However, when the user logs in again all the work is back. The user is warned ahead of time how long they have for inactive sessions and is told that their data will not be lost.

4.5.10 Pattern: Provide Feedback

4.5.10.1 User Need

As a user who struggles with web content, I need rapid feedback or visual cues to indicate an event was successfully triggered. For example, I need to know when an email has been sent, otherwise it looks as if it has just disappeared.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

For each step in a process let the user know of its status and if it was successfully completed.

4.5.10.2 How it Helps
Making the result of each user action clear helps people with a variety of cognitive disabilities:
  • Understand that their actions were processed (e.g., the click did something);
  • Prevent uncertainty or doubt regarding the outcome; and
  • Remember what they just did.

For example, a user with age-related forgetfulness, may have difficulty remembering how the interface worked. So when they press the send button that may not feel confident that the form was submitted. Feedback, such as a thank you message, will tell them submission occurred and make them feel confident in the process.

During a multi-step task this feedback (user-action feedback) can also assist people with attention or short-term cognitive disabilities remember what they are doing. For example, a user with early dementia may get distracted and then forget exactly where they were in the task. This user-action feedback helps re-orient them. It also helps them avoid leaving a task by reminding them that they are in a process, and where in the process they currently are.

Provide easily-recognizable success or failure feedback with every user action. When possible the feedback should use a consistent and familiar design patterns. For example:

  • After a step in a multi-step task is completed, breadcrumbs display a tick or a checkmark next to that step's name; and, if applicable, the title or the name of the next step is readily apparent.
  • After a button is clicked, it should look depressed. (Note that if it is a toggle button, the state should also be programmatically determinable).
  • After a form is submitted or an email message is sent, feedback communicating what just happened, such as "Your application was submitted, thank you" or "Your email message was sent" is provided.
4.5.10.3 More Details

The success or failure of every user initiated action is clearly indicated to the user by visual, programmatically-determinable, rapid feedback in the primary modalities of the content. Audio feedback is supported.

4.5.10.4 Examples

Use:

  • WAI-ARIA states are used to provide state feedback for a toggle button with an animation showing the state (such as a button was pushed).
  • Use ARIA-pressed with a visual or a checkbox is checked/unchecked.
  • Provide a confirmation message when an email message is successfully sent, or a form is successfully submitted.
  • Provide visible and programmatically-determinable information to indicate a new password satisfies security requirements.

Avoid:

  • There is no progress-indicator (e.g., breadcrumbs) to communicate completed and current steps in a multi-step process.

4.5.11 Pattern: Keep Users' Information Safe and Help Users Understand Known Risks

4.5.11.1 User Need

I need to be safe and secure when using a website, especially if providing information or communicating with others.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.11.2 Description

Keep the user's information safe. This includes:

  • Checking how safety and security techniques work with a wide range of customized profile including aging users and users with learning and cognitive disabilities.
  • Using known techniques to keep sensitive user information safe.
  • Helping all users understand any relevant known risks. Explain any know risks in plain and friendly language. This help them make an informed decision and stay in control.
4.5.11.3 How it Helps

It is vital that users stay safe on the Internet. Users need to know they are safe and secure when using a website, especially when providing information or communicating with others.

Information which suggests a user has Dementia or an intellectual disability allows predatory companies and individuals to target that user for scams or other risky activity. For example, a predatory company could send requests for money, saying “you haven’t made your donation” despite the user having made one. Avoid storing information that implies this or, if you do store it, provide strong security for that information.

Users with weak executive functioning are less likely to identify risks correctly so clearly identifying potential risks helps the user stay safe. Add helpful tips for staying safe while using your content and provide help in case of problems.

To help identify risks, we suggest holding research and focus groups with people with cognitive and learning disabilities and to work with people with disabilities to solve potential and existing problems.

For example, many people who cannot copy and paste passwords or use two-step authorization codes ask a caregiver to help them. As caregivers are often just temporary employees, this leaves the user completely exposed. Making passwords longer or requiring users change them regularly increases these unsafe practices and actually makes the application less secure for many people. This type of design error is common because people with cognitive and learning disabilities are left out of the user research and analysis.

4.5.11.4 Examples

Use:

  • Providing alternative login options that have been tested with people who have learning or cognitive disabilities that are approved security techniques, in your jurisdiction, for sensitive data;
  • Working with a wide range of people with learning and cognitive disabilities;
  • Using industry best practices for storing and securing user information;
  • Including COGA persona and use case in the research, development and requirements phases;
  • Using consent forms in plain language that have been tested with people with learning and cognitive disabilities to ensure they understand the risks.

4.5.12 Pattern: Use Familiar Metrics and Units

4.5.12.1 User Need

I want interfaces to use metrics I know, and that are common in my location (such as feet or meters) or I get confused. I do not always know what metric they are talking about or notice the number looks wrong.

Related User Story: Assistance and Support.

4.5.12.2 Description

Provide metrics in units that users will be familiar with.

4.5.12.3 How it Helps

Most people are familiar with a single set of units that are commonly used for metrics in their location or culture. When presented with metrics in other units they are required to perform a conversion in order to understand the relative magnitude. This will often require using tools such as a calculator or web search engine thus making content less accessible. Provide in line alternatives or an option to switch units that is easily selected, or perhaps based on the user’s location. Common examples are the units used for distance, meters, currency and temperature.

For example, a user may know the temperature in Centigrade. When it is given in Fahrenheit, they think it is going to become very warm.

4.5.12.4 More Details

Sometimes metrics are commonly declared in a specific unit even when localized alternatives are available. For example, TV or monitor sizes are usually given in inches even when meters are the common unit. However, even, in these cases providing alternatives is still useful as users may not be familiar with the metrics given.

4.5.12.5 Getting Started

Provide a mechanism to select a different set of metrics that are more meaningful to the user, or provide common alternatives in the text

4.5.12.6 Examples

Use:

The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet (324 meters) tall, including the antenna at the top.

Avoid:

The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet tall.

4.6 Objective 5: Help Users to Maintain Focus

Distractions can cause users with cognitive disabilities problems such as:

Once users become distracted, they may find it difficult to remember what they were doing. Then they can no longer complete their task at all. This is especially problematic for users with both low attention and impaired memory, such as users with dementia.

Items like bread crumbs can help orient the user and help the user restore the context when it is lost. Making breadcrumbs clickable can also help the user undo mistakes.

4.6.1 Pattern: Limit Interruptions

4.6.1.1 User Need

I can concentrate on what I'm doing as there are no unexpected noises or movements.

Related User Story: Distractions.

4.6.1.2 Description

Avoid interruptions. Provide an easy way to control interruptions, reminders, and changes in content unless they are started by the user or involve an emergency. Allow the user to control and limit types of content which could cause them distraction or an undesirable reaction. This content can include social media, violent content, distractions, loud noises or triggers.

4.6.1.3 How it Helps

For people with memory or attention challenges, interruptions can make completing a task very difficult or impossible. This can include individuals with Dementia, those that have had a stroke or brain injury, and those taking medications with side effects impacting memory and/or attention. Certain types of interruptions or a certain number may cause them to give up, even if the task is very important. Interruptions can include sounds, content that visually appears or changes (e.g. ads on a page). Interruptions can be as simple as text notifications about the presence of new changes while working in a shared online document.

A site will work best for those with memory or attention challenges if they:

  • Have no interruptions at all,
  • Have an easy to use pause option so interruptions can be viewed later, or
  • Have a setting where users can select which types of interruptions they can manage and when.

Many news websites have a lot of interruptions that can cause challenges for people needing to read important information, such as school closures due to bad weather. They may encounter breaking news text, advertisements, and pop-up windows. For those with difficulty focusing and sifting through the school names, or have two or three they need to check, these distractions may make the task impossible. By letting the user pause these distractions, and ideally temporarily remove them from the page, they will better be able to complete the task.

Sometimes, noises and different types of content may adversely affect mental health. For example, noises, distractions or distressing content may make the user more anxious or possibly trigger PTSD. There has also been research to suggest that too many interruptions and social media may aggravate depression and difficulty focusing. Allowing users to control this content could help them be more productive online.

Where standard techniques exist to remove or control distractions, they should be used.

For example, a person with traumatic brain injury is filling out their taxes online. The social media application pings them with notifications. They try to turn notifications off and then they try to turn off the application but it is too complex. They are unable to submit their taxes without help.

4.6.1.4 Examples

Use:

  • An application lets the user decide how they want to be notified about reminders and emails. Users can choose visual reminders and/or sounds, or none. They can flag users as essential contacts who can interrupt in more cases. These settings are easy to find from every screen. For some users, not having any notifications enables them to focus on a task and then go to their emails or calendar when the task is completed.

Avoid:

  • There are advertisements on a Magazine article pages that interrupt a reader’s focus. In the example below, the ad just under the banner changes (black oval) and the ad below the first article photo (navy rectangle) change every 20 seconds.

4.6.2 Pattern: Make Short Critical Paths

4.6.2.1 User Need

I need to be able to find features and content easily.

Related User Story: Distractions.

4.6.2.2 Description

Streamline processes and workflows so that they include only the minimally necessary steps. Separate out optional steps that are supplemental but not required. Do not require the user to go through optional steps.

4.6.2.3 How it Helps

Streamlining processes and workflows reduces distractions, mistakes, and mental fatigue. Using short critical paths increases the chance that users with cognitive disabilities can successfully and accurately complete a process or task and navigate a workflow.

4.6.2.4 Examples

Use:

1. The steps included in the online process to buy movie tickets are:

  • Select a movie
  • Select the date and time
  • Select seats
  • Pay
  • Print tickets

The movie theater allows the user to view descriptions about the movie and ratings, buy snacks ahead of time, and donate to a charity. These actions, or steps, are not required in order for the user to complete the task of purchasing a movie ticket. Instead of requiring the user make these selections as part of the purchasing process, the user is given these options before the process is started and after it is complete.

2. For the most used function in an app:

  • Open the app
  • Run the most used function

Don't:

1. The steps included in the online process to buy movie tickets are:

  • Select a movie
  • Select the date and time
  • Select seats
  • Purchase snacks ahead of time or opt out
  • Make a charitable donation or opt out
  • Create an account
  • Pay
  • Print tickets

The movie theater forces users to decide on snacks and making a charitable donation before paying for their tickets. While an opt out option is available, it is somewhat hidden on the screen, particularly on mobile devices, and users often give up when they can’t figure out how to pay.

2. For the most used function in an app:

  • Go to the app introduction page, press continue
  • Go to the app main page
  • Go to a sub page
  • Select an option
  • Select another option
  • Run the most used function

4.6.3 Pattern: Avoid Too Much Content

4.6.3.1 User Need

I can easily identify content that I need, and do not need. Information I need to know and important information stands out, or is the first thing I read and does not get lost in the noise of less important information

Related User Story: Findable.

4.6.3.2 Description

Provide users with five or less main choices on each screen and remove unnecessary content. This can be provided via a simplified version alternative that is generated in real time from the same code base as the main content.

Extra links that do not relate to the main purpose of the page should be limited to the footer section. Extra choices can also hidden under a “more” link or other clear and descriptive titles.

4.6.3.3 How it Helps

Too much text, too many images and too much other content can cause cognitive overload, anxiety and loss of focus. Keeping content down to a small number of important points reduces the clutter, calms the mind and allows for better understanding whilst aiding memory. In particular, it helps those with a short attention span who may leave the page if it appears complex.

Simplified content and a consistent design helps reduce cognitive overload which can lead to increased stress and mental fatigue.

For example, a person with early stage dementia goes to their doctors site. There are five choices on the screen: appointments; ask your doctor a question; test results; approvals and more. Each option has a symbol, clear text and is separated by whitespace. In two clicks they have asked their doctor their question. They can easily select what they need without asking for help.

4.6.3.4 More Details

Avoiding long paragraphs and non-meaningful imagery ensures those with cognitive impairments can concentrate on the important points being made.

Keeping to a few short bullet points and limiting to one or two images related to the main subject areas of a website or service allows the user to choose whether to explore the site further.

The intent of this pattern is not to clutter the page with unnecessary information but to provide important cues and instructions that will benefit people with disabilities. Too much information or instruction can be just as much of a hindrance as too little. The goal is to make certain that enough information is provided for the user to accomplish the task without undue confusion or navigation.

4.6.3.5 Examples

Use:

  • Google has one of the simplest yet easiest sites to use and this has been copied by companies such as Trivago with a simple search box and some clear statements followed by some meaningful images as links to other pages.

Avoid:

  • A page with too much content, long menus and images set around long paragraphs of dense text does not help anyone but more importantly the message is lost in an overload of information.

4.6.4 Pattern: Provide Information So a User Can Complete and Prepare for a Task

4.6.4.1 User Need

I know how to start a task, and what is involved.

Related User Story: Distractions.

4.6.4.2 Description

Emphasize the start of important tasks.

Before a user performs a task consisting of multiple steps, ensure they have an estimate of the amount of effort required to complete the task. This should include:

  • The time it might take,
  • Details of any resources needed to perform the task, and
  • Allow the user to prepare for and review the entire process and next step.

Once the user starts the task, ensure the use clearly understands when the task is still “in-process” and when it has been completed.

4.6.4.3 How it Helps

Some users find distractions difficult especially when the distractions cause them to switch focus mid-task and subsequently return where they left off. For example, a web site may have a large arrow pointing the way to the “book here” link. That emphasizes the start of the booking task, and will help users know when they have started the task.

Often people need to manage their times of concentration so they can focus without interruptions. Prior advice on the time a task takes, it’s complexity or working memory load enables them to better prepare and complete without unintentional abandonment. The list of required resources before starting the task along and the number steps left until completion of the task will help users avoid failures.

4.6.4.4 Getting Started

Provide an estimate of time required and a list of all required resources at the start of a multi-step task or form. Break the task into steps.

4.6.4.5 Examples

Use:

Before the user begins to book an airline ticket, a message is presented “The average time for booking an airline ticket is 15- 30 minutes. You will need your travel dates, the number of travelers and each travelers' passport to complete this process.”

Avoid:

Another airline does not notify the user that they need their passport. The process times out when the user is trying to find their passport number. The user needs to start over or will abandon the booking.

4.7 Objective 6: Ensure Processes Do Not Rely on Memory

Do not put barriers that stop people with cognitive disabilities from using or getting to content.

Sometimes developers put a menu barrier between users and the task they are doing so users cannot use the content or service.

Many users have memory issues and/or language issues that can make remembering passwords or remembering numbers, while processing words, difficult or impossible. That can make transcribing text or remembering passwords difficult or impossible.

For example, many users have a small short-term memory. You may be able to remember 7 letters or items in your head at the same time. A person with a low working memory may be able to remember one to four pieces of information at the same time (depending on the extent of the impairment). If they need to remember what they are doing, divide the steps and track what they have done they are even more likely to make mistakes.

Sometimes security and authentication put a barrier between users and the tasks they are doing. For example, requiring remembering and/or transcribing passwords often blocks users with cognitive disabilities or memory impairments from accessing content or using a service.

For example, Voice XML enables voice dialog systems and voice browsers. An example might be a phone menu system that ask you "dial 1 for internal services, dial 2 for external services, dial 9 for billing services." Sometimes users need to hold multiple pieces of transitory information in their minds, such as a number being presented as an option, while processing terms that follow. However, many people with impaired working memory cannot hold more than two or three pieces of information in their memory at the same time. As a result, they cannot complete this task and cannot get to the place they need to be.

When possible, provide easy-to-use options and paths to reach a human or the content they need.

Note that many accommodations can be provided via personalization support.

4.7.1 Pattern: Provide a Login that Does Not Rely on Memory or Other Cognitive Skills

4.7.1.1 User Need

I need to be able to use a site without remembering or transcribing passwords and usernames.

Related User Story: Accessible Authentication.

4.7.1.2 Description

Users can login and register without having more cognitive abilities then they need to use a simple web page. This includes:

  • Memorizing character strings;
  • Performing calculations;
  • Copying;
  • Answering puzzles;
  • Reliably producing gestures; or
  • Recognizing characters presented on screen, and then entering them into an input field.
4.7.1.3 How it Helps

Many people with weak memory often lose the password and not be able to login and use their applications. Their solutions often are only sometimes helpful and have security risks:

  • They may have to look at or listen to text several times to copy or type it into a form field;
  • They may reuse a single password or use a simple-to-remember password, which they can remember.
  • If they need to change their password or use a complicated password they may store passwords insecurely, such as written on pieces of paper which other people can see.

They may also struggle with other steps of login, such as:

  • Entering characters in the correct order;
  • Entering characters correctly on the first try (resulting in being locked out).
  • Finding a PIN;
  • Working out puzzles or distorted letters;

They can also give up after getting frustrated with time-limited procedures or presentations of digital security tokens.

Without this design requirement, many people cannot use an application or content at all. See Security and Privacy Technologies issue paper for the full description of this issue, and how it stops people from using web services that are often critical. Many people cannot make doctors’ appointments, etc., by themselves. This may be partly responsible for the reduced life expectancy of people with learning and cognitive disabilities.

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4.7.1.4 More Details

There are many ways to meet this design pattern:

  • Use Web Authentication: An API for accessing Public Key Credentials to support inclusive alternatives that do not rely on cognitive function;
  • Provide automatic user authentication based upon the use of a trusted device (to which the user has already logged in with their own identity);
  • Use biometrics; or
  • Use a system the user is already logged in to via third-party authentication services (e.g., OAuth, Facebook, etc.);

Methods of meeting requirements for alternative user authentication would include:

  • Clicking a link sent to an email address or a phone number; (Note that this is easy to implement and may be useful for minimal security, such as allowing comments on a blog);
  • Logging in by using information present in users' personal documentation, such as the total number of a current account balance, with explanation on how to find this information.
4.7.1.5 Examples

Use:

Avoid:

  • Using two-step authentication that requires copying;
  • Using a password and not allowing pasting into the field.

4.7.2 Pattern: Allow the User a Simple, Single Step, Login

I need the login process to be simple, and not multi-step.

Related User Story: Accessible Authentication.

4.7.2.1 Description

Provide a simple, single-step alternative for logins

4.7.2.2 How it Helps

This allows people with impaired executive function or impaired working memory to login. This is especially important for users who become confused or overwhelmed with multi step processes. For example, a use with traumatic brain injury wishes to use a site for online banking. They can have put their finger on a finger print scanner to authenticate who they are. Other examples included some third party logins such as login with Facebook.

4.7.2.3 Examples

Use:

Allow login with Facebook

Use the web authentication protocol and provide a single step method that match your security needs.

Avoid:

All login methods involve multiple steps

4.7.3 Pattern: Provide a Login Alternative with Less Words

4.7.3.1 User Need

As a symbol user, I need a login process I can use that does not rely on a lot of words

Related User Story: Accessible Authentication.

4.7.3.2 Description

Provide at least one login alternative that does not require reading or writing a lot of words

4.7.3.3 How it Helps

This allows people with language and communication disabilities to login without being overwhelmed by blocks of text.

For example, a symbol user wants to send a message to their doctor. They can press the login with the icon they know and send a message.

4.7.3.4 Examples

Use:

The user can log in with a third party like Facebook or Google which have well know symbols or with the web authentication protocol along with an easy login option.

Avoid:

Login requires answering security questions. No simple, word free, login alternative is provided.

4.7.4 Pattern: Let Users Avoid Navigating Voice Menus

4.7.4.1 User Need

If I get stuck I want to be able to find a human by pressing a reserved digit (typically the number 0).

Related User Story: Voice Menus.

4.7.4.2 Description

Let people easily reach a human who can help. Do not require navigating menu systems to reach a human.

Design helpful voice menus by:

  • Providing a known reserved digit that can be used at any time, usually 0, to skip the voice menu and go directly to a person;
  • Waiting for a slow speaker to respond;
  • Listening for a quiet speaker
  • Supporting forgetfulness and memory impairments
  • Allowing words normally used by people with different cognitive and learning disabilities
  • Following usability best practices
  • Avoiding additional steps or options
  • Avoiding unnecessary or distracting information such as promotional information
4.7.4.3 How it Helps

Many people cannot use voice menu systems and other complex systems. This often stops people from completing critical tasks by themselves. Often this can include making doctors' appointments, getting health insurance, reaching social services, getting their water turned back on, etc.

If people cannot manage voice menus by themselves, they have to ask someone else to help them. For example, they may delay making a doctor’s appointment or other critical task as not to bother their helper. This is a huge problem and means people often do not get the help they need or get it too late. This may be partly responsible for the lower life expectancy of people with learning and cognitive disabilities.

(See Voice Menu Systems issue paper for a full discussion.)

Why can’t people use complex menus?

  • A good short term memory (several seconds) is essential so that the user can remember the number or the term for the menu. Without these functions the user is likely to select the wrong number.
  • Many users have a small short term memory. For example, if you can remember 7 letters or items in your head at the same time they may be able to remember one or two. This makes them less likely to manage a menu system correctly.
  • For example, a phone menu system (voice ML system) may have an option: "Press 3 for internal services" To use this option the user must remember a digit 3 while figuring out if they need an internal service. Many people cannot do this. It also requires them to press the correct digit.
  • When a lot of irrelevant information is given before the correct option, the user may give up. This is especially true if they did not understand all the earlier options and information.
  • They may not understand the terms used.
  • Having focused on the menu, they may forget why they are calling.

The 0 digit should be reserved for reaching a person. Consistently set the first option for each menu to: "to weight for a person who can help you press 0". This can help everyone reach the support they need.

Test any system with a wide range of users with different learning and cognitive disabilities.

4.7.4.4 More Details

Considerations for Speech Recognition

  • For speech recognition based systems, an existing ETSI standard for voice commands for many European languages exists and should be used where possible [ETSI 202 076], keeping in mind that expecting people to learn more than a few commands places a burden on the user.
  • Natural language understanding systems allow users to state their requests in their own words, and can be useful for users who have difficulty remembering menu options, or who have difficulty mapping the offered menu options to their goals. However, natural language interfaces can be difficult to use for users who have difficulty producing speech or language. Directed dialog (menu-based) fallback or transfer to an agent should be provided.

Follow requirements of legislation

For example, the U.S. Telecommunications Act Section 255 Accessibility Guidelines [Section255] paragraph 1193.41 Input, control, and mechanical functions, clauses (g), (h) and (i) apply to cognitive disabilities and require that equipment should be operable without time-dependent controls, the ability to speak, and should be operable by persons with limited cognitive skills.

4.7.4.5 Getting Started

Ensure this pattern is included in important systems that affect health, finance, communication, water and government services. Unimportant systems, that do not affect the users' health, safety, money or rights should incorporate as much of this pattern as possible.

4.7.4.6 Examples

Use:

  • Using user interaction dialogs in which the first option "to weight for a person who can help you press 0”;
  • Using a user-interaction dialog, such as the standard "0" from any point, where there is easy access to a human operator who can help users achieve their goals;
  • Advisory technique: Cueing users to write something that may be useful at a later point, and give them time to do so.

Avoid:

  • Long menu systems that make it hard to find a person.

4.7.5 Pattern: Do Not Rely on Users Memorizing Information

4.7.5.1 User Need

I need processes that do not rely on memory and access to information.

Related User Story: Previous Steps.

4.7.5.2 Description

Create a process that does not require:

  • Memorizing character strings or pin numbers
  • Remembering digits to select for a short time
  • Performing calculations
  • Copying
  • Clear speech or fast responses
  • Using executive function to work out the category of the service they need
  • Going through multiple steps

When going through multiple steps, each step in a sequential process must contain the information necessary to allow a user to proceed. They must not rely on memory from prior steps.

Labels are before the activation mechanism.

When useful, provide a summary of information from previous steps, and a mechanism for traversing the process.

4.7.5.3 How it Helps

Often content has barriers which prevent users with learning disabilities from completing a step, and as a result, prevents them from achieving whatever they wished to achieve.

This often happens in multi-step user-interaction dialogs, such as voice-menu systems, but it can happen in any task including online shopping or forms.

  • Some systems assume that all users have a good working memory. They present several choices to the user and ask them to select one choice, whether by speaking or through a key press. The user needs hold multiple pieces of transitory information in the mind. For example, many users have a small short term memory. For example, a phone menu system (voice ML system) may have an option: "press 3 for internal services" To use this option the user must remember a digit 3 whilst figuring out if they need an internal service. Many people cannot do this. It also requires them to press the correct digit.
  • Reduced executive function may also cause problems. Sometime the user needs more time to complete a task. But there can also be problems if the system response is too slow. The user may not know whether their input has registered with the system, and consequently may press the key or speak again.
  • The user may need to compare similar options such as "billing", "accounts", "sales" and decide which is the service that is best suited to solve the issue at hand. Without strong reasoning skills the user is likely to select the wrong menu option.
  • Advertisements and additional, unrequested information also increase the amount of processing required.
  • The user needs to focus on the different options and select the correct one. A person with impaired attention may have not be able to focus for a long or multi-level menu. Advertising and additional, unrequested information also make it harder to retain attention.
  • The user needs to interpret the correct terms and match them to their needs within a certain time limit. This involves speech perception and language understanding: sounds of language are heard, interpreted and understood, within a given time.
  • The user needs to understand the terms used in the menu, even if they are not relevant to the service options required.
  • When a lot of irrelevant information is given before the correct option the user may give up, especially if they did not understand all the earlier options and information.

Allowing the 0 digit to get to a person, or having the first option "to weight for a person who can help you press 0" can consistently help. However, when this is not possible there are steps one can take to reduce the memory requirements for the user.

Good practice that dd reduces the memory skills required include:

  • Each step in a sequential process must contain the information necessary to allow a user to proceed. They must NOT rely on memory from prior steps.
  • Providing simple-to-navigate menus with limited and clear options that are easy to understand and make sense to different user groups.
  • Stating the option before the number to selected.
  • Pausing between each option.
  • Waiting for a slow speaker to respond.
  • Listen for a quiet speaker.
  • Support forgetfulness and memory impairments.
  • Allow words normally used by people with different cognitive and learning disabilities.
  • Providing a simple way to go back without having to start at the beginning.
  • When useful, provide a summary of information from previous steps, and an easy mechanism for traversing the process is available.
  • After the user makes a mistake, give them an option to press 0 for human help.
4.7.5.4 More Details

Follow best practices in general VUI design

Standard best practices in voice user interface apply to users with cognitive disabilities, and should be followed. Some examples of generally accepted best practices in voice user interface design:

  • Pauses are important between phrases in order to allow processing time of language and options.
  • Options in text should be given before the digit to select, or the instruction to select that option. This will mean that the user does not need to remember the digit or instruction whilst processing the term. For example: The prompt "press 1 for the secretary," requires the user to remember the digit 1 while interpreting the term "secretary". A better prompt is "for the secretary (pause): press 1" or " for the secretary (pause) or for more help (pause): press 1"
  • Error recovery should be simple, and take the user to a human operator if the error persists. Error responses should not end the call or send the user to a more complex menu.
  • Advertisements and other extraneous information should not be read as it can confuse the user and can make it harder to retain attention.
  • Terms used should be as simple and jargon-free as possible.
  • Tapered prompts should be used to increase the level of prompt detail when the user does not respond as expected.

User settings

User-specific settings can be used to customize the voice user interface (such as menus, and options), keeping in mind that the available mechanisms for invoking user-specific settings are minimal in a voice interface (speech or DTMF tones). If it is difficult to set user preferences, they won't be used. Setting preferences by natural language is the most natural ("slow down!") but is not currently very common.

  • Extra time should be a user setting for both the speed of speech and ability for the user to define if they need a slower speech or more input time etc.
  • The user should be able to extend or disable time out as a system default on their device
  • Error recovery should be simple, and take you to a human operator. Error response should not though the user off the line or send them to a more complex menu. Preferably they should use a reserved digit.
  • Timed text should be adjustable (as with all accessible media).
  • Advertisement and other information should not be read as it can confuse the user and can make it harder to retain attention.
  • Terms used should be as simple as possible.
  • Examples and advice should be given on how to build a prompt that reduces the cognitive load
    • Example 1: Reducing cognitive load: The prompt "press 1 for the secretary," requires the user to remember the digit 1 while interpreting the term secretary. It is less good then the prompt "for the secretary (pause): press 1" or " for the secretary (pause) or for more help (pause): press 1"
    • Example 2: Setting a default for a human operator as the number 0

Considerations for Speech Recognition

  • For speech recognition based systems, an existing ETSI standard for voice commands for many European languages exists and should be used where possible [ETSI 202 076], keeping in mind that expecting people to learn more than a few commands places a burden on the user.
  • Natural language understanding systems allow users to state their requests in their own words, and can be useful for users who have difficulty remembering menu options, or who have difficulty mapping the offered menu options to their goals. However, natural language interfaces can be difficult to use for users who have difficulty producing speech or language. Directed dialog (menu-based) fallback or transfer to an agent should be provided.

Follow requirements of legislation

For example, the U.S. Telecommunications Act Section 255 Accessibility Guidelines [Section255] paragraph 1193.41 Input, control, and mechanical functions, clauses (g), (h) and (i) apply to cognitive disabilities and require that equipment should be operable without time-dependent controls, the ability to speak, and should be operable by persons with limited cognitive skills.

4.7.5.5 Getting Started

This is essential for critical systems such as health, finance, communication, water and government services.

4.7.5.6 Examples

Use:

  • Using user interaction dialogs in which the first option "to weight for a person who can help you press 0”.
  • Using a user-interaction dialog, such as the standard "0" from any point, where there is easy access to a human operator who can help users achieve their goals.
  • Advisory technique: Cue users to write something that may be useful at a later point, and give them time to do so.

Avoid:

  • Long menu systems that make it hard to find a person more requirement. The user can figure it out and then hears the digit they need

4.8 Objective 7: Provide Help and Support

4.8.1 Pattern: Provide Human Help

4.8.1.1 User Need

I know how to get human help and can manage the process easily.

Related User Story: Help.

4.8.1.2 Description

Ensure easy access to a human who can provide help and support. Support can be on accessibility, technical, process or domain based.

Access to human help should never require the user to manage complex menu systems such as voice menus with different options. One or more contact mechanisms should be easy to locate and use from any page or any step in a process.

4.8.1.3 How it Helps

In cases where the user gets stuck or confused for any reason, contact with a human is usually the most effective and suitable solution. In reality many sites provide this option only to users who can navigate complex systems. The people who need it the most will effectively not have access to the human help option. They may abandon the process and be left with a negative attitude towards the service or supplier.

For example, a user with an intellectual disability wants to use a coupon. They cannot find the instructions and they cannot find the phone number for support. They effectively cannot use the coupon.

4.8.1.4 More Details

Examples include

  • An option for live chat or video call help. Note: It must be full accessible and easy to close new windows that open as part of live help functionality;
  • A phone number, ideally with a feature to automatically call via an interoperable Voice over IP specification;
  • A simple site contact form;
  • An email link using the ‘mailto’ protocol with prefilled “to” and “subject” fields. Note will not work on all platforms or depending of the user's mail client;
  • Use available standards to get human help for example, using the 0 digit on voice menu systems;

It is important that voice communication is easy and this implies the person providing help can both be easily understood and is able to understand others, allowing for a range of vocal and verbal characteristics. Sensitivity to the requirements of people with learning cognitive disabilities is also important.

4.8.1.5 Examples

Use:

  • A phone number, ideally with a feature to automatically call via an interoperable Voice over IP specification without a voice menu (direct to an operator).
  • An email link using the ‘mailto’ protocol with prefilled “to” and “subject” fields. Note will not work on all platforms or depending of the users mail client.

4.8.2 Pattern: Provide Help and Alternative Content for Complex Information and Tasks

4.8.2.1 User Need

As a user who struggles with text and words, I need contextually-relevant graphs and pictures to supplement text so I can understand a point without a lot of reading. For example, I find graphs much easier to understand than the same information in an article or academic paper.

Related User Story: Help.

4.8.2.2 Description

Provide content that helps users understand complex information.

This should include redundant information for different user groups such as:

  • Summaries and step-by-step information in plain language
  • Explanation of choices and any disadvantages
  • Tables and charts
  • Symbols familiar to the user
  • Well-structured video content
  • Pictures and informational graphics
  • Alternatives for numeric content

Dedicated help and alternative content should be clearly differentiated from primary content. Where there is alternative or supplemental content, provide an easy, single action mechanism for the user to be able to find and select the content format or version that is easiest for them to understand.

4.8.2.3 How it Helps

The use of complex information, long documents and complex data formats can present significant barriers to users with cognitive accessibility needs. Users should be able to understand the information and successfully complete described tasks without requiring further external assistance as much as possible.

The complexity of information may be part of the information itself, for example the quantity of information or the subject matter. In this case, it is likely to need careful explanation, organization and presentation so as many users as possible are able to understand without any mistakes, confusion or need of assistance.

In addition, the presentation mode of information, such as a graph, diagram or table, may make it more complex. Here, a supporting description and guided interpretation will highlight the key features the user needs to understand.

Help may be provided in various forms, for example:

  • Text "asides" providing explanation and help for diagrams.
  • A supporting chart or graph to illuminate text content.
  • Video clips that show the tasks being completed in steps.
  • A supplemental table – as long as it is not itself complex.
  • Popup on hover explanations of keywords - possibly linked to a glossary.
  • A flow chart of steps in a process.
4.8.2.4 More Details

Sufficient techniques for content relating to numbers and complex information. (use whichever apply)

  • Charts or graphics are provided where they aid the comprehension of complex information.
  • Tables are provided where they aid the comprehension of information.
  • 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
    • Use personalization semantics to supply non-numerical concepts
  • For content with sections use one of the following:
    • Using enable semantics to add symbols to sections
    • Adding symbols as an addition to headings, key short sentences and phrases to aid understanding.
    • However, as some people have difficulty remembering symbols, use text with the symbol.
      • Use clear symbols that can easily be seen and expanded.
      • Use images understood by different users.
      • In left to right languages place the image to the left of the text.
  • Sufficient techniques for content with more than 300 words
    • Provide an easy reading summary using common terms and short blocks of text. For pieces of content with less than 300 words the heading may act as a summary.
    • Semantic headings are used to break the information down into a more manageable size and provide structure to the information being presented. This particularly benefits users of Assistive Technology.
    • The content owner identifies at least two keywords that aid comprehension for the user and these keywords are programmatic determinable and emphasized in the modality of the user.
4.8.2.5 Getting Started

Provide explanatory content for complex information that is important for successful completion of a task including tasks in the real world.

4.8.2.6 Examples

Use:

  • The explanation of a medical procedure and success rate statistics is amplified through the use of an additional text aside, a diagram and a graph.
  • The multi-step process for applying for a visa is made easier to use by adding flow chart of all the steps that is always visible. Each step in the flowchart has links to extra help and the current step is clearly highlighted

Avoid:

  • A long text and data table of sales figures is shown without any explanation of the key features that relate to the content.

4.8.3 Pattern: Clearly State the Results and Disadvantages of Actions, Options, and Selections

4.8.3.1 User Need

The advantages or disadvantages of the options are clear to me and I understand the effects of the choice I might make. For example, when choosing a cheaper airline ticket you often have to pay for a meal.

Related User Story: Cognitive Stress.

4.8.3.2 Description

When presenting users with actions and selections, clearly explain the benefits, risks and consequences of each option. This includes any:

  • Changes from what the user asked for,
  • Disadvantages from the standard product or offering,
  • Features that may be a risk to the users wellbeing or finances.
4.8.3.3 How it Helps

Clearly stating benefits and consequences of each action and selection option helps individuals avoid mistakes. This is particularly important when the results cannot be easily corrected, lead to safety risks, or may never be known.

For example, a user of a travel site is booking a trip to Geneva. They see an option at a good time, but this ticket is to a different city. They assume the options give are to the location they asked for. They check the dates and times, but, because they cannot read quickly, do not double check the destination. They are taken to a different location, and as a vulnerable user end up at night without accommodation.

In another example, a user sees a laptop for sale at a good price. They do not see the refurbished word in the long description. The laptop is not actually a good price.

4.8.3.4 Getting Started
  1. Whenever you ask the user to make a selection or take an action, consider whether there are any implied or hidden results that the user should be aware of.
  2. If so, clearly indicate those results within the UI and confirm the user is aware of them.
4.8.3.5 Examples

Use:

  • When choosing an airline ticket, a customer has to select several price points. Next to each, there is a clear description of what is included. The least expensive option does not include a meal or baggage beyond a small carryon. Once purchased the ticket is nonrefundable. The most expensive option can be refunded or exchanged and includes a meal, carry-on bag, and 1 piece of checked luggage. If the ticket is to a different destination or other unusual or change that could be a risk to the user is asked to confirm the change.

Avoid:

  • Each meal option available for selection from an online menu has a fun name. The meal contents, side items, and ability to customize each option is not visible until two steps later in the process. A customer must go several screens down on each item in order to make a decision.

4.8.4 Pattern: Provide Help for Forms and Non-standard Controls

4.8.4.1 User Need

Explanations for unusual controls in a form I find easy to use (such as a video or text).

Related User Story: Task Management.

4.8.4.2 Description

Provide help for any complex forms, particularly when there are multiple steps, unusual interactions, non-standard controls and required fields that do not support autocomplete. Give examples that make it easy to understand what to do.

4.8.4.3 How it Helps

Users often find forms and related tasks to be the most complex experience with web sites and can easily become confused, unsure, or even completely lost. Providing extra help can make the difference between being able to successfully complete a task and giving up. This is especially true if any part of the form is complex or provides nonstandard interactions.

Many standard forms controls provide support automatically. For example, many fields can be automatically fill it all in the information using autocomplete or personalization semantics. Then the user will not make mistakes filling it out.

When you require additional fields and nonstandard controls many users will have difficulty filling it in. Many users with disabilities will get the information incorrect or be unable to work out how to complete the task. Often this results in the task being completely abandoned. In other cases, the user asks a care giver for help to complete the form or work the control. In either case, they have not been able to complete the task because of their disability.

4.8.4.4 More Details

The standard HTML forms and controls have been carefully specified for maximum usability and accessibility. They are usually understood by users, especially if they are familiar with web interactions. However, users are likely to experience difficulties if the standard form behavior has been altered or completely new controls are provided. Assuming the new behaviors have been carefully designed and user tested, users may still require help in order to successfully use them.

Examples of forms and controls that are likely to require additional help:

  • New behaviors like bank sort code fields where there is auto tabbing between the 3 boxes as digits are entered;
  • Password fields that require certain character types of characters to be entered;
  • Surveys with complex interactions, for example where buttons only appear depending on previous answers;
  • Date entry where there could be some ambiguity about the required format;
  • custom controls like date pickers.

Help can be provided via various mechanisms, perhaps with an accessible help button next to a nonstandard control.

Sufficient techniques for forms

  • Using a standard mechanism for the platform or technologies exists for context sensitive help;
  • Using COGA semantics for context sensitive help;
  • Semantic headings are used to provide a logical structure to a form adding both the understanding of the form layout and the information required. This will also benefit users of Assistive Technology.

Sufficient techniques for non-standard controls

  • Clear and non-ambiguous instructions should be available for non-standard controls.
  • Using Personalization semantics for instructions should be available for non-standard controls.
4.8.4.5 Examples

Use:

  • A help button next to date picker provides accessible pop-up help for using the control.
  • A form has multiple steps. Users are informed on their progress through the stages.

Avoid:

  • A form has complex mechanism for enabling and disabling sections as you scroll or tab between them but no help is provided.

4.8.5 Pattern: Make It Easy to Find Help and Give Feedback

4.8.5.1 User Need

I can give feedback, ask questions and get feedback.

Related User Story: Help.

4.8.5.2 Description

Make it easy for the user to ask for help or report issues at any point in the process. This includes:

  • Easy to Use: Feedback information and forms are simple and clear. (User Testing with different user groups is highly recommended.)
  • Easy to Find: Available from any place where the user may get stuck
  • Using a preferred communication method such as a form, email, chat, or phone support

The option to provide feedback should never require the user to manage complex menu systems such as Integrated Voice Menus (IVR) with many different options.

4.8.5.3 How it Helps

Providing an easy way for users to give feedback will help people be able to share problems, ask for help, make suggestions and positive comments. If users cannot give feedback easily, problems will continue to exist without the site owner being aware of the problems. It is important to allow users to provide feedback from any point in the process so that people do not get lost when trying to explain why they are stuck. Ideas for improvements and positive feedback will also be missed.

For example, a user with a learning disability struggles to use an ecommerce site. They have an idea on how to make it much easier to use. They spend an hour trying to give the feedback and then they stop trying. The site continues to lose customers.

4.8.5.4 More Details

Make sure the feedback option is:

  • Simple to use;
  • Available in all stages of the process;
  • Has a process in place to respond helpfully to any feedback submitted;
  • Does not make the user provide unnecessary information;
  • Does not rely on complex menu systems.

Providing multiple methods for gathering feedback is recommended. For example, on a website, consider providing all 4 options for feedback including live chat, a phone number, a web form and a feedback email address.

Note that chat bots may not be appropriate for this particular type of feedback other than to start the feedback process. These can be extremely frustrating if you cannot easily get to the area you are trying to reach.

4.8.5.5 Examples

Use:

  • A banking website had a major accessibility problem. This problem blocked some customers from paying their bills online. One of these customers found a feedback form on the page where they got stuck. The customer was able to report the problem. A help desk employee reached out to the customer and helped them complete their bill payment successfully. That help desk employee also reported the accessibility problem to the software team. The software team corrected the problem in the next software release. The new design was easier for all users and resulted in more customers successfully paying their bills on time.
  • Web Chat or Web Call - An option to provide feedback using live chat or a video call. Note: The live chat or video call feature must be fully accessible. Web chat should not be a distraction and easy to close. Check usability with user testing.
  • Phone - A feedback phone number, ideally with a feature to automatically call via Voice over IP. Make sure there are no complex voice menus.
  • Web Form - A simple site contact form with no more than 3 required fields
  • Email - An email link using the "mailto" protocol with prefilled “to” and “subject” fields. Note will not work on all platforms or all mail clients.
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) - Provide an automatic option at the end of an IVR to give feedback by pressing a specific digit on the phone.

4.8.6 Pattern: Provide Help with Directions

4.8.6.1 User Need

$$$.

Related User Story: Help.

4.8.6.2 Description

Content is provided that helps users understand and use directions or navigational systems. This can include:

  • Providing landmarks that can easily be be recognised,
  • Providing cardinal directions (ie general or global),
  • Facilitating reorientation when get off the route,
  • Supporting awareness of distances, and
  • Personalization of terms such as directions and measurements
4.8.6.3 How it Helps

People with cognitive disabilities may experience varying levels of difficulty with wayfinding directions or wayfinding applications. The help required to address wayfinding issues varies per individual and also between indoor navigation, where there are more stimuli, and outdoors, where there can be more demands on memory.

Wayfinding requires many cognitive functions so designs should accommodate a wide range of cognitive impairments including those supported by other Design Patterns. For example:

  • memory,
  • executive function,
  • spatial orientation
  • visual/spatial attention, perception and processing
  • spatial disorientation anxiety
  • language processing
  • intellectual

Some users may need more detailed help, such as step-by-step directions. Many users need to preview a route before following it and then landmarks can help with recognition and orientation as well as reducing anxiety. Alternative relative directional terms and cardinal directions matching a user's preferences are most effective, for example “the driver's side” or “the East Wing”. Helping people imagine relative and absolute distances can help, for example “you’ve travelled half way”.

Due to the wide variation in personal requirements, personalization mechanisms can be very useful. For example, the units used for distances. Platforms or other technologies often provide personalization options for relative and cardinal directions and terms which can be used. For example, the platform locale settings.

For example a person with traumatic brain injury is using a GPS. They review the route before leaving, and look at pictures of the turns. These preparations will enable them to follow the route. While driving, the route changes to avoid three minutes of traffic. They are no longer able to follow it.

4.8.6.4 Examples

Use:

  • Simple disambiguation of left and right is always available and directions use landmarks.
  • Images of local landmarks are provided or can be added to help with orientation during wayfinding.

Avoid:

  • Consistent reference to points of the compass including less well known ones (e.g. N by NE)
  • Instructions always assume that the person is at the expected location with no way to recover.

4.8.7 Pattern: Provide Reminders

4.8.7.1 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.

Related User Story: Support.

4.8.7.2 Description

Make it easy for the user to set a reminder for date and time sensitive events. Use standard API’s when possible.

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

4.8.7.3 How it Helps

People with cognitive and learning difficulties 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.

Using calendar APIs (or task manager) that allow the user to automatically add events and deadlines to their own calendar can help in many cases, 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 is challenged in sequencing 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.

For example, a user with a learning disability set a doctor's appointment online. Often they copy the detailing incorrectly onto their calendar. However, the website 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.

4.8.7.4 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 on 'when to supply a reminder' include:

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

This design pattern addresses two broad classes of issues associated with this type of information:

  • If the user perceives the activity to be too complex the user may decide to abandon the activity and therefore be excluded from the information and/or services derived from the completion of the activity.
  • If the activity relies on a number of distinct events being carried out sequentially over an extended period of time or if a single event must be completed by a specified date and time then the likelihood of errors being made during the activity increases, particularly for users with cognitive accessibility needs. Activities are often missed because the date and time is confused.
4.8.7.5 Examples

Use:

  • 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.

Avoid:

  • A health care site allows you to set a local medical appointment. They are not given the option to automatically add it to their calendar or set a reminder.

4.9 Objective 8: Support Adaptation and Personalization

People with cognitive disabilities often use add-ons or extensions as assistive technology. This includes spell checkers, passwords support, and support for text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting of the phrase being read. It is important that these tools are supported and work on all content. In other words, content should not include code that disables these tools.

Personalization can enable us to really meet the individual user’s needs. Some users need extra support which we can provide with minimal effort from the user via personalization. Personalization allows the user to select preferred options from a set of alternatives. Some alternatives may be provided by the content author or app developer and others may be semi-automated. This can include:

Personalization also helps with the following:

One use-case we would like to see is providing interoperable symbol set codes for non-verbal users. Products for people who are non-vocal often use symbols to help users communicate. These symbols are in fact people's language. Unfortunately, many of these symbols are both subject to copy write and are not interoperable. That means end-users can only use one device, and can-not use apps or AT from a different company. An open set of references for symbol codes for these symbol sets however, could be interoperable. That means the end user could use an open source symbol set or buy the symbols and use them across different devices or applications. Symbols could still be proprietary but they would also be interoperable.

4.9.1 Pattern: Let Users Control When the Content Changes

4.9.1.1 User Need

Controls do not move unexpectedly as I am using them.

Related User Story: Adapt.

4.9.1.2 Description

Ensure that changes of context, functionality, settings, route and orientation are initiated only by user request or an easily available mechanism is available to turn off such changes. Also provide an easily available mechanism to go to previous context, functionality, settings, route and orientation.

4.9.1.3 How it Helps

Any content, settings or functionality which changes unexpectedly, without user initiation can result in significant barriers for users with cognitive disabilities. Unexpected changes in any of these areas can result in loss of focus, anxiety, or confusion in understanding or using a user interface (such as menus, buttons and design components). Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Automatic launching of new windows or pop-ups;
  • Submission of forms through mechanisms other than a button that is clearly labeled using simple language to submit the form;
  • Opening new content or a feature;
  • Selecting an option;
  • Rerouting automatically by a GPS; and
  • Changing the direction of a map in a GPS.

For example, a user may not have a sense of direction or know their left and right. Before using a GPS, they may study the route so that they know approximately what they are doing and can augment the directions of the GPS with their own context, using the GPS for cues. The GPS automatically reroutes them because of a small traffic delay. They become completely lost and disoriented and can no longer use the application.

In another example, a user is watching a video and wants to press “like”. As they are about to press the button, the controls shift and they load a different video instead of pressing “like”. They are now less likely to press “like” because the do not want to lose their content. As a result their preferences are not heard.

Letting users control when content changes gives users with cognitive disabilities more control over how websites and applications behave. This gives them the opportunity to make choices that enable them to use the content and complete the task.

4.9.1.4 More Details

Exception: The changes are part of an activity where it is essential (e.g. a game).

Route: Directions and flow such as a GPS route.

Orientation: perspective or view such as map direction.

Easily available (or easily available mode or setting), one or more of the following is true:

  • Can be set one time with as a wide a scope as possible (such as using the standards of the OS, From ISO 9241-112 or GPII when available);
  • With the option to save or to change the setting for the scope of the set of web pages;
  • Is reachable from each screen where it may be needed, and the path and the control conforms to all of this document;
4.9.1.5 Examples

Use:

The user can set to change the route if more than a specific amount of time is saved. They can add more information such as how many extra turns are acceptable for saving 5 minutes. When the GPS finds a new route that saves time, the GPS tells the user about the change including how many extra turns were added and how much time will be saved. The GPS asks the user if they want to change the route or if the GPS changed it, the user can go back to the original route in one touch or command.

4.9.2 Pattern: Enable APIs and Extensions

4.9.2.1 User Need

I have an extension that helps me correctly enter words, grammar and use punctuation as well as read the page to me.

Related User Story: Extensions and API’s.

4.9.2.2 Description

Allow supporting APIs and extensions to work with your content.

4.9.2.3 How it Helps

People with cognitive disabilities are often using add-ons or extensions as assistive technology. This includes:

  • Reading of the long form of acronyms;
  • Support for text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting of the phrase being read;
  • Content simplification;
  • Creating mind maps out of the heading structure;
  • Support for retaining content that has already been entered;
  • Password management;
  • Spell checking;
  • Changing the symbols or the interface.
  • Changing numbers from digits to words and words to digits
  • Adding white space between lines, sentences, phrases, and chunks
  • Alternative ways to input the content such as speech recognition
  • Adding pictures

If these functions are not supported, the author should provide all support all the functions of the add-ons in use as assistive technology.

For example, a user with traumatic brain injury has executive function and memory impairments impacting their ability to remember details such as:

  • The symbols on a Web of Things (WoT) interface;
  • Their user name and password;
  • What an acronym stands for;
  • A phone number; or
  • The meaning of uncommon words

Supporting the use of an add-on that simplifies content and adds help (such as the long form of acronyms, and a popup dictionary) enables them to understand most content.

Supporting password management tools enables him to successfully login and avoid being locked out of secure sites.

Storing non-sensitive information and auto complete helps them fill out a form. This suggests common information, like a person's phone number or address. It also helps them avoid making mistakes. It eliminates the need for accurately recalling this information from memory or having to copy and paste it, which is a task that often prevent them from successfully using a form.

When overwhelmed by textual content, they have an extension that inserts symbols that they are familiar with that helps them find the content they need.

However, sometimes a web site stops their extensions and API’s from working. The result is that the use cannot use this web site.

Another example is a person that has a language related disability, such as Dyslexia, which may cause them to read at a slower rate. They often miss objects and information that they did not know they needed to read. While high-literacy readers scan text, low-literacy users may read the text “word-for-word.” This means they only know what is written when they have intentionally read out. This is similar to having a narrow field of view and they can be unaware of other items not directly in the flow of text that they are reading. They may also miss things on the page that help them understand what to do. For example, there may be a side bar or call out box which helps make decisions about which link to go to that matches their particular needs. These readers may select the earlier option they encounter, because they may not have noticed (or prioritized) reading that side bar content. They also might miss information that is essential for successfully completing an interaction. Less content makes it all more usable.

Too many options may add to the complexity of interacting with IoT devices. Additional options should be easy to ignore and not require a lot of reading to understand that they are additional, as well as how to skip them.

Sometimes IoT interfaces may confuse the user, such as a default "reading" on a meter being set to “2” and not “1.” The user would then need to reset it to “1.”

It is important in any proposed solution to make operational tasks, such as interacting with the IoT, as transparent as possible so that users can focus their attention on the functional aspects, such as relating to content.

4.9.2.4 More Details

Support compatibility with assistive technology and standardized personalization. The definition of standardized API's is identified in the native platform's documentation or in a WCAG technique. This is important as the design requirement is not open ended.

People with cognitive disabilities often use add-ons as assistive technology. It is essential that add-ons and similar tools work as expected, except when:

  1. A security or safety requirement requires these API's be disabled. In this case they should be disabled only for the relevant field(s).
  2. The add-on breaks the main function of the site, such as evaluation and testing applications.

When add-on's are automatically disabled by the code, the burden of supporting the extra functionality of the add-ons falls to the author.

4.9.2.5 Getting Started

Content can be used with APIs and extensions that support those with cognitive disabilities.

Testing verified through the use of some of the APIs appropriate for the content. For example:

  • Testing with spell checker and password storage apps or extensions.
  • Test with an extension that add to the left click.
  • Test with a toolbar that enables simplification or personalization and is designed for people with cognitive disabilities.
4.9.2.6 Examples

Use:

  • Browser extension and personalization tool bars work. Users are able to apply their settings from a personalization toolbar to improve the usability for them of the page.

Avoid:

  • Password storage applications do not work;
  • Distraction removing extension does not work;
  • Spell checker extension does not add options to the right click menu, or does not underline mistakes made by the user;
  • The correct symbols cannot be added by a simplification toolbar.

4.9.3 Pattern: Support Simplification

4.9.3.1 User Need

I can convert the content into easily understood language and layout.

Related User Story: Adapt.

4.9.3.2 Description

Support simplification of your content. Often this includes allowing the user to:

  • Remove or hide features that most users do not use or that are not essential;
  • Get less test or more simple text;
  • Select the content format or version of the content that is easiest for me to understand; or
  • Find the extra features when wanted.
4.9.3.3 How it Helps

A user who has difficulty reading or using Web content can be easily overwhelmed with too much information on a web page. They need to simplify the page to just the critical information that they need and not spend all their energy reading and understanding other content and features. This is also true for users who are easily distracted.

For example, an email program has lots of features and formatting options when drafting an email. This makes it too complex for a lot of people. With personalization the user can have a simple option with only send and cancel options. There is a “to” and subject line but no cc or bcc options. In this setting there is a clear heading (write an email) and they have icons that the user understands.

4.9.3.4 More Details

Note that:

  • Typically, a simple application has 3 to 6 functions;
  • Make sure it is easy to get back to the full featured version;
  • You can meet this design pattern by;
  • Use data-simplification on regions and controls;
  • Use other attributes in personalization semantics;
  • Add a simplification toolbar;
  • Provide an alternative version.
4.9.3.5 Getting Started

Add data-simplification=”critical” on content that is in any critical user testing paths.

4.9.3.6 Examples

Use:

  • Simplified “reading” view is available and easy to close.

Avoid:

  • A busy email program with lots of regions with different controls bars and features such as tagging, group tagging, start a new thread etc. There is no easy way to simplify the page.

4.9.4 Pattern: Support a Personalized and Familiar Interface

4.9.4.1 User Need

I can change to a version of the interface that is familiar to me, that I recognize and know what will happen.

Related User Story: Adapt.

4.9.4.2 Description

Provide users with a way to personalize their interface to make it familiar.

This can be done by:

  1. Allowing a rollback to a previous interface that the user is familiar with and knows how to use
  2. Adding semantics on controls, links and symbols that allows the user to control the experience. For example:
    • Html 5 autocomplete on common fields;
    • Adding a toolbar that adds personalized images;
    • Use attributes in personalization semantics.

Personalization technology is still young and is developing rapidly. At the time of publication HTML autocorrect on fields was the best supported.

4.9.4.3 How it Helps

Personalization changes the interface to meet the needs of the user.

Having familiar terms and symbols is key to many users being able to use the web. However, what is familiar for one user may be unfamiliar to another requiring them to learn new symbols. Adding semantics allow symbols and support to be added by an extension or browser that is familiar to the individual user.

A stronger example is people using Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems. AAC systems designed for people who are non-verbal often use symbols with or without text.

These users usually only learn one symbol set. They cannot easily communicate with other symbol users in a written format or may struggle to understand different symbols used in different applications. Some symbols are subject to copyright and cannot be shared across applications.

If users' symbols are mapped to the same concepts, then user agents can load the symbols that are understandable by the user and the user can access the web and other applications.

Other support includes autocomplete and extension that help the user fill out forms and understand the content. Many users with memory or executive functions impairments could not fill in forms without asking someone to help copy over information or check their work. Autocomplete, many more users to manage forms by themselves.

4.9.4.4 Getting Started
  • Use Html 5 autocomplete on all common fields;
  • Add a toolbar that adds personalized images or;
  • Add the semantics that can work with a toolbar for personalized images.
4.9.4.5 Examples

Use:

5. Usability Testing, Focus Groups and Feedback

5.1 Usability Testing Introduction

Usability testing is the best way to know if your content and functionality works for real people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

Usability is important for everyone. However, if someone cannot use the content or design without help because of their disability, then the content is not accessible for them. It is important to change the design so that users with cognitive or learning disabilities can use the content independently.

Including digital accessibility throughout a project, right from the beginning, improves accessibility for all users. This includes using user needs for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, using design patterns which focus on the needs of those with cognitive disabilities, and when possible, usability testing with individuals with cognitive disabilities.

Automated testing for accessibility focuses on more technical areas of accessibility. While important, automated testing cannot often assess if people with a cognitive or learning disability can successfully use the content. It is vital for people with cognitive disabilities that development teams do not rely solely on automated accessibility testing. Development teams should:

Sometimes designs and content are usable for some people but not if they have cognitive or learning impairments. Sometimes content is usable by people with one learning disability but not a different one. For example, content with fewer words and more numbers may be perfect for some users with dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder, but inaccessible for people with dyscalculia who struggle with numeric information. It is important that usability testing includes a diverse set of users with different cognitive or learning disabilities, such as people with a memory impairment, learning disability, attention impairment, numeric impairment, language and communication disability and intellectual disability.

5.2 Finding People to Include

Finding people to include in usability testing who have different learning and cognitive disabilities can be relatively easy. People sometimes recruit users from an organization or self-help group for people with learning difficulties. Social media groups can be an easy and convenient resource. Alternatively, small development groups can achieve a large improvement by asking people who they know, such as friends, colleagues, relatives or neighbors who:

It is helpful to find people with learning and cognitive difficulties who are also in your target group as customers or users.

If your organization has a more formal process, work with those that help employees or community members get assistive technology or other accommodations. They can put out a call for volunteers to their contacts. This helps individuals self-identify and opt-in to help.

Some organizations also use peer-researchers who have learning or cognitive disabilities. Peer-researchers understand the perspective of people with their disabilities. The researchers and developers work together with peer researchers to find solutions. Peer researchers are also involved in testing the solution with other people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Our developer resource page references project and resources with information on finding and working with persons with learning and cognitive difficulties as co-researchers or peer researchers.

5.4 Usability Testing

It is beyond the scope of this document to provide a guide to usability testing and user-research, however, there are useful resources available on our developer resource page. As a short overview, usability could be measured based on efficacy, efficiency and satisfaction. This can be done by measuring or tracking:

At the end of the evaluation you should be able to answer:

5.4.1 Differences from Usability Testing with the General Population

There are some differences when performing usability testing with people who have cognitive impairments:

  • Ask ahead of time if they need any support for their needs. This could include a quiet room or frequent breaks.
  • Ask what test methods work best for them, such as individual interviews or groups. Some people will prefer to have an interview in their home.
  • Ensure participation forms are easy to understand.
  • Inform the participant that they can request the information in a different format. If they make a request, ensure they receive it with enough time for them to review and ask questions.
  • Have a copy of the participation forms at the session, in case questions come up before the session begins.
  • Send participation forms to the participant in advance, and allow plenty of time for the participant to ask questions and fill in forms;
  • Allow the participant to bring a care giver, family member or friend to attend with them.
  • If your tester has a guardian, you should get an assent form from the tester and an informed consent form from their guardian;
  • If they bring a guardian or care giver, make sure they are not doing the tasks for them. If they give help, monitor closely what help they give as this may be due to a design fault. 
  • Explain the testing method before the test.
  • The questions should not be too difficult. 
  • It helps to provide easy methods of assessing mood, rather than asking for the participant to verbalize. Try asking them to select a smiley face, such as: Figure 1 A simple mood selector

    a set of 5 smiley faces from happy, through neutral, to sad.
    Figure 1 A simple mood selector
  • Some individuals also have challenges identifying moods from faces. Other options to consider are simple mood selectors and text-based rating scales where an individual can point to their selection. For example, I really like this, it is fine, I really don't like this.
  • Check they understand the methods used to collect the data. 
  • Ensure the person does not feel like they are at fault for making mistakes. While this is always important during usability testing, this scenario is even more likely for people with cognitive impairments.
  • Ask them for their ideas, such as, what features they would like to see, what design they prefer and what support they find most helpful.

Here are some suggestions of what to look for when conducting usability testing with people with learning and cognitive disabilities:

  1. Before you start, make sure the research team understands that the testers cannot do anything wrong. Research should never harm the user or make them feel bad.
  2. Make sure the participants and researchers know they can leave at any time. No one should feel bad if they leave!
  3. Check that the testers understand the task or question. Encourage your testers to “think out loud” 
  4. Can your testers manage each task reasonably easily and fast? You can time the task taken to complete, and note any parts where the users slow down or seem to struggle. Also, note any errors that they make including clicking on the wrong item.
  5. Is completing the task frustrating or upsetting?
    1. You can ask the users how they are feeling before and after the tasks or rate their mood such as selecting the smiley face which represents how they feel.
    2. Ask them if anything was annoying.
  6. How can you make it better for your users (people with learning and cognitive disabilities)?
  7. Ask your users if they have suggestions about what would make the interface easier for them to use. This is often best at the end of the usability test.
  8. If the user is struggling, remind them that you are reviewing the system not them and that their insights are really helpful. Thank them for helping. Remind them that it is helpful when they find issues because it helps the team make the product better. Stop the process if users are getting distressed.
  9. Analyze the data collected and review the findings with the team. Remember to keep the names of individuals confidential unless they have given permission to have their identity and disability shared.

(With thanks to Smart4MD and Easy Reading for this overview. These projects are co-financed by the European Union under an EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – Horizon 2020, with grant agreement number 643399 and 780529 and the European commission for this contribution.)

5.5 Test Objectives

You can test the objectives of the design guide. If they are successful, that section can be considered completed!

For each objective, make sure your user testing includes individuals with a range of cognitive disabilities. Do not just ask questions, but ask the user to complete an action that demonstrates usability. Test for the following but set up the tests so that the user demonstrates their knowledge and understanding rather than answers a simple question:

5.5.1 Does the User Understand What Things Are and How to Use Them?

  • Does the user know what the page is about?
  • Does the user know what actions they can take on a page?
  • Does the user know where they are in a website, an application or a multi-step process?
  • Can the user easily find the different sections of content?
  • Identify the different activities that the user may want to complete on the page:
    • Can the user achieve the activities without asking for help?
    • Does the user make errors trying to achieve the activities?
    • Does the user find them easy to achieve?

5.5.2 Can Users Find What They Need?

  • Can the user easily identify any important information or interactive feature on the site or on a specific page?
  • Can the user use both browse and search approaches to finding things?
  • Can the user revert or correct any action they take when interacting? Does it use a familiar and consistent action?

5.5.3 Is the Content Clear and Understandable?

  • Does the user understand the text?
  • Does the user understand text immediately?
  • Does the user know unambiguous language?
  • Is there any content usable without understanding math concepts?
  • Is there any representation of math by words instead of numbers?
  • Is the support for slow readers helpful?
  • Does the user understand use of (familiar) symbols?
  • Does the user understand use of images and multi-media?
  • Can the user find a segment or a piece of key information quickly?

5.5.4 Can Users Avoid Mistakes and Easily Correct Them

  • Can the user easily fill in the form without making mistakes?
  • When the user goes to the wrong place can they easily get back in one click?
  • Was it pleasant to fill out the form? How is their mood changed?
  • Did they have to redo anything? Was correcting any mistakes easy?
  • Ask the users if they would find this easy to do if under stress or tired.
  • Ask the user if anything was hard.
  • Ask the user how the form could be easier to fill out. Suggest some of the relevant design techniques bellow and ask if it would help them with this form.

5.5.5 Can the Users Maintain Focus?

  • Can they achieve the activities easily without losing focus?
  • Distract the user for a minute so that they lose focus. Can they get easily back to the task?
  • Ask the users if they would find this easy to do if under stress or tired?
  • Ask the user what would help them remember what they are doing such as headers or breadcrumbs.
  • Ask the user if anything was distracting.

5.5.6 Can Users Complete Processes without Relying on Memory?

Identify the different activities that the user may want to complete on the page:

  • Can they achieve the activities without asking for help?
  • Does the user make errors trying to achieve the activities?
  • Does the user find the activities easy to achieve?
  • Can the user do the same thing later (the password may have been forgotten)?
  • Ask users if they would find this easy to do if under stress or tired.
  • Ask users were they might have trouble if they are under stress.

5.5.7 Is there Enough Help and Support?

  • Can the user identify the different ways a user may “Report Issues and Problems?”
  • Can the user find a way to submit their feedback without asking for help?
  • Can the user submit their feedback at each stage of the process including from the home page and any place they may get stuck?
  • Does the user make errors trying to submit their feedback?
  • Does the user find it easy to submit their feedback?
  • Does the user’s mood deteriorate when submitting feedback? (A sign of frustration)
  • Ask the users if they would find this easy to do if under stress or tired.
  • Ask the user where they might have trouble giving feedback if they were under stress.
  • Does the user understand the feedback process and are they able to complete the task? Use concrete ways to check that the user understands. For example: Is the user able to identify if/when they will receive a response back? Can they identify how a response may come back (e.g. email, phone)? Where the feedback goes/what happens to the feedback?
  • Make sure it is simple to use and does not require a lot of information that will prevent people from giving feedback.
  • Confirm it is available at different stages in the process and is one click away.
  • Confirm that when feedback is given and a process is in place for acting on it!

5.5.8 Is Adaptation and Personalization Supported

  • Are personalized versions of the content are supplied?
  • Do content modifications match declared user preferences such as less content, adding and changing symbols or simplified text?
  • Check that content variations such as text simplification do not incorrectly change the meaning, that content is not lost, and that critical paths still work;
  • Forms autofill works correctly with all content versions.
  • Does the users preferred extensions and tools work on the site?
  • Are the personlizations options easy to find and set?
  • Do they find it easier with personalization options supplied?

6. Use Cases / Persona

Any time there is a 'target audience', there will be people with learning and cognitive disabilities in that audience. However, cognitive impairments are often invisible in day-to-day life until people encounter particular challenges. To provide some context and understanding, nine personas have been created which outline fictional people with various cognitive impairments and the challenges they face.

For additional examples from other organizations, see Persona Links on the Developer resources page.

6.1 Alison: An Aging User with Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Problem: I'm not sure what I should press. I pressed something that looked like the buy button but it did nothing. I am not sure if it is me or if this website just doesn't work.

  • Works well: The buy button was clearly something I could click. The process was easy. I have now bought matching dresses for the grandchildren.

Alison has a medical background, working in rehabilitation of physical injuries, but has recently decided to work part-time to take up more hobbies and be with her grandchildren. She wants to try an online course to learn Chinese, in preparation for a special holiday. Alison considers 63 to be the new 36. However, she has difficulty concentrating and finding the word she wants to say. She often makes typos and has to correct sentences when she re-reads them. She becomes easily frustrated as she finds new technical things, like updated design patterns and applications, to be hard to learn and less intuitive than they used to be. Plus, navigation takes longer than in the past. Unfortunately, this includes learning how to use a new interface and this affects the way she works when swapping between her tablet, phone and computer.

6.1.1 Alison Scenario 1: Learning How to Use New Technologies and Interfaces

Alison recently took an evening course to learn how to use Windows and MS Word ten years ago and used to feel very comfortable with the interface. After she had to renew her computer she finds all the updates mean that most applications now appear very different. She realizes that links and buttons have changed appearance and often finds she does not know what to press. Sometimes she will press a picture or stylized heading that is not a control and so is not sure if the internet was down, the site is broken or she has made a mistake. Sometimes she touches something accidentally and the focus moves to a different page or application. For example, she recently tried to enlarge some small text and activated a link instead of enlarging it! She misses the days when all links were in blue and underlined.

Alison loses self-confidence when things go wrong. For example, selecting an incorrect button or getting an error that she does not understand. She knows to try and press the back button to go back a step, but it does not always work as she thinks it will. She tends to think she cannot cope, so gives up, but with support to adapt the interface to suit her needs she could learn to use the new style.

Her children worked with her to reduce the number of menu items on the application toolbar so she can concentrate on the ones she regularly uses. They helped her change her settings so when searching for items on the web, only a limited number now appear at one time. They also found her a de-cluttering browser extension that takes away many of the advertisements and other items that clutter her social media pages when communicating with her grandchildren.

6.1.2 Alison Scenario 2: Correcting Typos and Writing Fluently

When writing letters and messages on her computer, phone and tablet Alison pauses every so often and checks that what she is writing makes sense. She finds it very annoying having to work so slowly, but by using text-to-speech to read out content she has found she can hear her mistakes more easily than she notices them on the screen. She has also discovered that this process can make reading web pages easier and less tiring. However, she often has to go over instructions several times before completing tasks online. She depends on the fact that forms do not time out or have an option to allow her to extend the time to fill in the edit boxes.

6.1.3 Alison Scenario 3: Coping with Online Banking and Shopping

Alison knows her math skills are not as sharp as they used to be. She is worried about making mistakes that will put her financially at risk and she is not sure she should be using her credit card online. Alison wants to feel safe and supported.

She has found that autocomplete helps filling out forms, but she tends to worry that what has been entered may not be accurate. She has a paper card listing some commonly needed information such as her phone number, address and postcode. She stores secure information in a special folder and she has set up an agreement with the bank to limit spending on her credit card and mobile banking.

6.1.4 Alison Scenario 4: Giving Feedback

Alison would like to give feedback and tell her bank what changes they could make to their website to make it more usable for her and other mature customers. She struggles to find the feedback form and she has to type in a lot of information to send her suggestions. When she types in her phone number without the area code she receives an error. She tries to fix the error and send the suggestion but the send button becomes disabled so she probably needs to correct something else as well. At this point Alison feels they do not want her feedback and gives up. She now uses the site much less often. She also finds it hard to reach a support person on the phone because of the confusing phone menu system, so drives into the bank instead. She is thinking of changing to her daughters bank, so her daughter can help her.

6.2 Amy: A Computer Scientist who has Autism

  • Problem: They used lots of words on the links that did not seem to make sense. I think they were metaphors but I'm not sure.

  • Works well: I put my mouse over the items I did not understand and there was some clear text that explained what it did. I would rather they just used the clear text in the first place but at least I could use it.

Amy loves her computer science course and now programs in several languages. She has discovered she can visualize the outcome of her coding and is quick to find any errors even if they have not been highlighted. Documentation writing is less fun and she tends to be rather too concise which means some users do not receive enough help using her applications.

6.2.1 Amy Scenario 1: Coping with Poor Layouts and Illogical Navigation

Being able to code your own websites can make you very critical of others! Amy finds that she often feels quite confused by some social media sites that have dynamically changing content with random messages and advertisements. She either avoids these sites or tends to try to personalize them by clearing away the clutter and choosing to hide sections. Navigation that does not follow a simple route across an entire site really annoys her, as she feels this does not help anyone. She also finds that she is missing important information on sites that have too much information on pages or have no clear and logical structure.

6.2.2 Amy Scenario 2: Changing Color Schemes, Flashing, Blinking and Automatic Playing Videos or Music

When a page loads automatically or animations and videos play automatically cause problems for Amy. Sometimes, the movement can be very distracting and the sounds alarming. She has always found that sudden noises or something happening unintentionally has been a problem. When designing her own applications and websites she makes sure all the controls for animated objects or videos are very visible and do not start until the user has decided they wish to interact or view the object.

6.2.3 Amy Scenario 3: Designs that Make Use of Abstract Imagery and Metaphors

Amy is always concerned about communicating clearly and finds it hard when people ask her to create a design that includes abstract imagery. Images that do not directly represent something make Amy feel uneasy and she tends to ask if there can be some explanatory text in case other users are confused. On the other hand, a figure of speech where someone has written something that is not literal makes her wish that the writer would use easy to read content as it is hard to understand concepts such as, "the wheels of justice turning slowly."

6.3 Anna: A Student who has Dyslexia and Poor Eye Hand Coordination

  • Problem: As a slow reader it takes me ages to read though badly structured text and I often miss important information.

  • Works well: The newsletter has headings so I can find the important information quickly.

Anna has been a student for the past year. Her Fashion Design course has been challenging but fun. She loves the creative aspect of the diploma and would rather be drawing than writing. She has moderate dyslexia, which affects her ability to read, spell and use numbers. Anna has a poor working memory, especially for numbers and digits. She also has poor auditory discrimination which affects her ability to read quickly.

Anna had several projects to complete as part of her portfolio, but the one that worried her most involved a written assignment where she has to research the topic of Post-war fashions and their impact on today’s designs.

6.3.1 Anna Scenario 1: Logging In

Anna's use of the library catalogue from home failed at the first attempt when she could not remember her password. She kept putting in ‘afib61’ rather than ‘afid16’ and could not see the mistake. The error message on the web page had not helped because it announced that her user name or password were incorrect and she was not sure which one was wrong. Luckily, as she was on her own laptop the browser settings allowed her to save her password and she was able to automatically log in.

6.3.2 Anna Scenario 2: Finding Accessible Content

Having navigated the online library system, Anna eventually found a paper on the subject she wanted, which she could download in pdf format. She was hoping to use her text-to-speech app to read the content aloud but when she tried to highlight the text nothing happened. She discovered the document was actually an image and yet there was no warning this was the case. She could not find an alternative accessible version of the paper. This meant she had to use optical character recognition to virtually scan the paper. It was not totally successful leaving gaps in the information she found and the process took away valuable time from her writing.

6.3.2.1 Anna Scenario 3: Filling in a Form to Ask for an eJournal Article

Finally, Anna found an ejournal that had another article, but there was a form that had to be completed. Anna duly started the process but realized she did not know the author’s name. She returned to the page where she had found the article to copy and paste the name. Sadly, when she returned to the form all that she had filled in was lost. She had hoped to just be able to add the final bit, not have to retype the whole thing again.

(Adapted from MOOCAP Erasmus + Persona CC-BY-4.0 http://gpii.eu/moocap/?page_id=33)

6.3.3 Anna Scenario 4: Overlooking Important Information

Anna is a very slow reader and often sounds out words. She has low auditory processing skills so she cannot speed up her screen reader. Therefore, to manage her busy life she has to try and scan read and skip through the massive amounts of content, emails and newsletter she sees so she can read only the most important parts. Sometimes however, she cannot find important content because it is buried inside lots of other content, or the headers and visual layout of the content does not guide her to where she needs to be.

Anna is always worried that she is missing something important and sometimes she is. For example, her daughters elementary school published a weekly newsletter with interesting stories about activities and important announcements. It contained information that her daughters school was ending early one day, but it was buried under less important information about the school activities. Because it takes her so long to read each word she did not manage to read the whole newsletter and did not know that her daughter was coming home earlier than usual. As a result, she was not home in time and her daughter was left waiting outside for over an hour.

6.3.4 Scenario 5: Pressing the Correct Button

Anna has bad eye hand coordination, so precise movements are hard and she often touches the wrong button or digit when typing on her small phone screen. With her low letter recognition this makes typing in codes or text very unreliable. She also confuses left and right so she is often pressing the off button in place of the volume. In most interactions on her phone she makes some form of mistake, such as loading a new video when she intended to expand the screen of the window she was watching. To use an application successfully it needs to have a consistent back or undo function.

6.4 Carolyn: A Yoga Teacher who has ADHD

  • Problem: If I come to a website that has lots of banners automatically flying by it really distracts me and I want to turn them off!

  • Works well: I found an option on my computer to say I wanted less movement and the website stopped all the flying things.

Carolyn found concentrating at school difficult and when she got into college to take a course in business studies life became even more stressful. She knew she could cope with the studies but never seemed to get her work completed on time, found it hard to start a report and even to create a plan for a project. When working with others she always had good ideas but somehow they were never taken up and she became frustrated often failing to keep her feelings in check. Luckily, a tutor suggested she sought help and when a psychologist, mentioned Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) Carolyn was relieved to have a reason for some of the planning and organizational difficulties she was having. She learnt that if she could make use of her constantly active brain and body as well as manage her time better, she could turn her hobby into a very successful Yoga business.

6.4.1 Carolyn Scenario 1: Gathering Key Points from a Heavy Text Based Document or Web Page

Carolyn could not really explain her apparent forgetfulness and not being able to focus or complete tasks, but she knew that if she came across a long document or web page with dense text she had to find the key points. If the web page failed to have a clear structure with a content list, well-spaced and highlighted headings she would be lost and lose concentration. Carolyn also said that if she was using her mobile she found advertisements appearing between chunks of text completely upset her focus and she had to stop reading. However, when there was good use of white space, recognizable icons linking to simple bold text clarifying the important points, Carolyn could target these areas and find out what she needed. A clear summary also provided clarity of understanding and Carolyn could remember much of what she had read.

6.4.2 Carolyn Scenario 2: The Power to Stop Scrolling Carousels and Banners

When setting up a new website for her business, Carolyn found an attractive template with several different ways of being able to show images of her exercises. However, she could not make the carousel of photographs pause, or a banner with her latest news stop scrolling. This really annoyed her as she found both items stopped her concentrating on the real content on the rest of the site. She thought that if it was upsetting her, what about her intended audience! She had to find a friend to add some code that not only added controls, but also stopped the automatic movement giving her website a calmness that she hoped her yoga teaching achieved.

6.4.3 Carolyn Scenario 3: Losing Focus when Completing Tasks

Carolyn enjoyed her Yoga teaching, but found that if she was developing some instructional materials for her website, online tools often failed to provide sufficient guidance. Unless there was a clear pathway and a way to return to the place where she was working, she often deleted items by accident or could not make corrections. Saving endless previews with yet more tabs being open in her browser caused anxiety levels to rise. It was not until she found a web app that made each task clear with a submit button, that saved her work in stages, that she was able to cope. Carolyn was able to see sections of her work in the correct order and could then manage the bite size chunks of instruction, rather than have to deal with it all at once. This made it so much easier for her to complete the exercise sheets and she became confident in her use of the application to the extent she was willing to purchase the pro version.

6.4.4 Carolyn Scenario 4: Learning Information from a Video

Theoretically, Carolyn likes instructional videos, but in practice she can only concentrate well enough to learn for a few minutes at a time. Then she loses her concentration. She will usually lose focus earlier if there is more than a minute of content that she already knows. When this happens, she misses the information that she needs! Carolyn tries hard but she still cannot focus for more than a few minutes on content that she already knows. Sometimes she watches videos at high speed so that they are less boring for her, but she still loses focus within a few minutes. When a video is broken down into segments with clear headings, she can jump to the information she needs to learn, and jump forward over segments that she already knows. When she misses information that she needs she can easily jump to the correct location and focus.

6.5 Frank: A Retired Lawyer with Dementia

  • Problem: I want to turn the volume up but there is no dial?

  • Works well: There was a clear volume buttons with a label that made sense, so I knew what to press.

Frank retired from his law firm in his early 60s when he found he was forgetting important items that needed to be discussed in his complex caseload. He found that he was forgetting material that he had just read, losing and misplacing objects and having trouble planning or organizing events. Frank is a very intelligent man and that has not changed. You will often find him reading an article about the law. However, he finds he cannot learn new things that rely on remembering new information. This can include new words or symbols.

6.5.1 Frank Scenario 1: Managing Dates and Booking Holidays

Frank noticed that he had trouble with online calendars and booking flights and hotels when he was planning his summer holiday. He could not work out the way the dates had to be entered into the form and made mistakes with the month and day. If only there had been a good example or tooltip. He also found that when he was booking a flight, the table that had the various lists of airports automatically entered the initials, which was very confusing when he was checking that everything was correct. Finally, there was the issue of making sure he booked the right number of nights for his hotel stay. He knew his arrival time at the airport was a day later than when he left, but it would have helped to have had a calendar with color and clear markings for the days in the week not just numbers.

6.5.2 Frank Scenario 2: Coping with Icons that are not Recognizable

Many web pages now have their own graphic icons and ways of indicating actions that need to be completed. Frank was having problems searching for information about a care home that he thought might help him in the future. He could not work out what the various options were when he came to fill out a form for his requirements. There appeared to be a series of small images beside the edit boxes, but the minute he began to write in the form the text explanation disappeared. He wanted the instructions to remain in place above the area where he was writing and for the box to be highlighted when he found he had missed some important sections.

6.5.3 Frank Scenario 3: Support when Using Search Engines

Frank likes to surf the web for anything to do with fishing, his favorite hobby. However, he has found that the sheer number of items that appear when he types in a few words very confusing. Ideally he would like the number of search results to be reduced and perhaps have some way of seeing the items categorized in groups so that he can work out which services he needs. In this case it might also be helpful to have icons appearing when the groups are listed, so that he can see articles about fly fishing in one section and sea fishing in another. Blocks of text with more white space around them would also be helpful so that he is not having to cope with such a mass of text.

6.5.4 Frank Scenario 4: Making a Medical Appointment

Frank can be independent, but often finds unsuitable designs make him require help. For example, he was trying to make a doctor's appointment. He went to the doctor's website and clicked on “make an appointment”. Then a popup opened asking him for the date. He became distracted by the phone, and when he returned to the screen he was not sure what it was for. So he did not make the appointment. If the popup had had a clear heading he would have been reminded of what he was doing, but without this landmark he was just confused.

Later Frank tried calling to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the voice system was automated and asked him questions like “press 2 to make an appointment” Frank typically cannot remember the digit - especially while he is processing the options. He usually gets lost in these systems or types the wrong digit. Frank is reluctant to ask for help and as a result he is not getting the health care he needs.

6.5.5 Frank Scenario 5: Using the Heating

Frank recently moved to a smaller apartment that is easier to take care of. However, this means he is not used to the ICT interfaces for the heating and television system. He has tried to turn on the heat, but the menu item for selecting heat or air conditioning is labeled "mode" and he cannot remember or learn new terms. Frank cannot use the whole unit because of this one term. This has caused emergencies such as hypothermia. Frank keeps the heating on at the same temperature and will only change it when his helper comes.

The TV also has an ICT interface with a lot of symbols that Frank does not know. His helper put an “on/off” sticker next to the button that he can use, but he cannot change the channel or change the volume.

When his microwave broke he bought a new one with controls that were similar to his old one. Because the controls were familiar, Frank can use the microwave unaided, although he needs help with the TV and heating.

6.6 George: A User who Works in a Supermarket and has Down Syndrome

  • Problem: I find it hard to understand and remember such long and complex written instructions.

  • Works well: The instructions for scanning items are presented as a clear list of steps made of pictures with easy to read text next to them. If I get stuck I can quickly find a reminder of what to do in such ‘Easy Read’ content.

George enjoys his job and lives semi-independently in a small town, where he can easily find his way around. However, George finds it hard to use search engines and navigate around websites because of the need to work with large blocks of text. He has problems using the online systems at work, and needs help to search for suitable videos or music.

6.6.1 George Scenario 1: Using Symbols for Communication

George used to use Makaton symbols and gestures when at school, but is able to communicate relatively easily now, although reading and writing remains a challenge. Surfing the web is hard when most interactions require text input, but George likes to watch videos, find images and listen to music as well as playing games online. Friends have set up links with recognizable icons on his tablet and this has made it easy to visit his favorite sites. If recognizable symbols or icons could be used in more situations, George feels he would be able to reach more sites independently. There are search engines designed for children and these often use more images, but tend to be too childish for George’s taste.

6.6.2 George Scenario 2: Understanding Netiquette and its Impact on Social Media Sites

George has been told about surfing safely and not giving out personal information. He is very lucky that his family has set up his Facebook and Skype account with various privacy settings. However, George finds the way emojis change or new icons keep appearing on his message systems rather confusing and does not always realize what some of them mean. He has sometimes selected an inappropriate symbol and then receives a rather short message from a friend in return that is upsetting. He finds it hard to explain what might have happened. He knows there have been times when he really can’t choose the right symbol because it is too small and he finds it hard to accurately hit the spot. George is then very worried as he does not know how to unlike or change his symbol choice. Interacting with emojis and other symbols is much easier for him with easy ways to enlarge these features on touch interfaces and to undo errors.

6.6.3 George Scenario 3: Controls on Videos and Popup Windows

Using a mouse is not easy for everyone and double clicking can take time to learn. George has worked hard to improve his mouse skills by playing many onscreen games, but he still finds it hard to move accurately enough to skip ads on videos or to track down the close/exit method offered by some popup windows. Once again friends have come to the rescue and enabled an ad blocker extension for his browser, but this does not always capture all the ads or prevent George selecting the submit rather than a cross or exit button on a pop-up. There have been times when George has downloaded malware without any second warning appearing or been unable to reach a site because he cannot find the small cross on a transparent popup window that overlays the main page.

6.6.4 George Scenario 4: Finding ways to Read Instructions

George finds it very hard to read instructions unless they use very short and easy to read words. He needs text that has been simplified. The best option for George is when someone has taken the trouble to provide a summary of a paragraph with a well-known symbol, short bullet points and a clear diagram or image of what is required. He finds videos with instructions usually go too quickly and he has to stop them, going back time and time again. Helpful instructions with well broken up sets of phrases using easy to read words can work well and he can go back to them when he has to remember how to do a particular task.

6.7 Jonathan: A Therapist with Dyscalculia

  • Problem: It says there is a meeting at 15.34 UTH. Now is lunch time. Did I miss it?

  • Works well: There is a line marker showing what time of day it is now, so I can see the meeting is soon.

Jonathan is a massage therapist with dyscalculia. For Jonathan numbers are a foreign language. He can add simple numbers with his fingers and cope with very basic sums. However, he has particular difficulty with numbers that have a series of zeros and their relationship to each other such as 10, 100, 1000 etc. He finds complex calculations, symbols and mathematical concepts are very problematic.

6.7.1 Jonathan Scenario 1: Coping with Quantities when Shopping Online

Jonathan struggles with the actual value of products, purchasing the correct quantities, for example when buying food at the supermarket and often orders far too much or too little when using online shopping carts. He has found it is much more helpful to have symbols representing the proportional size of items per price or to have a warning when he has ordered an item that might be very large and therefore costly. He saves shopping lists that have been successful and where the amounts have been correct so that he can re-use the lists on other occasions. His bank has helped by adding restrictions on the amount he can spend whether online or using his mobile phone. This can be annoying, but has stopped him from overdrawing his account.

6.7.2 Jonathan Scenario 2: Remembering Pin Numbers and Passwords

The use of pin numbers and passwords that insist on including a number has always been an issue and most of the time Jonathan uses a secure password application when online. When it comes to the number on the back of his credit card (Card Verification Code) that is always required at the end of a payment exercise, he has to look it up each time, though autofill has helped with completing the rest of the form. Jonathan made sure that what he originally entered and saved in his browser was correct. Too many times he has had to retrace his steps due to typos and not seeing that the entry was incorrect. When he has to return to the form to make corrections, he finds it essential that the corrections needed are clearly highlighted and the instructions provided are helpful. He also feels that it is important that the data he entered previously has not been lost, as the more often he types in numbers etc. the more likely he is to make mistakes.

6.7.3 Jonathan Scenario 3: Using Spreadsheets Shared with Colleagues

At work, there are times when Jonathan has to share a spreadsheet with a colleague to ensure that the group’s accounts are in order, suppliers have been correctly invoiced and fees collected. The mass of numbers affects Jonathan’s ability to concentrate on the various areas on the spreadsheet. He has found that it helps to use color coding, increased spacing and larger font sizes in order to pick out the various elements. He uses a tool for recording his hours where he can press start and stop to see how long he has worked without using math but he is not confident to add hours worked to the spreadsheet himself. He wishes it was integrated into the work spreadsheet. Jonathan will often use the comment feature to add something that he feels his colleague need to check, rather than making the correction to the spreadsheet himself.

If the document is saved as a PDF or presented in another format, Jonathan insists that it is easy to use with his text-to-speech program which helps him to check how the numbers need to be said and that he can annotate the contents when using his tablet. This is especially important if he is presenting numbers at a meeting.

6.8 Maria: A User who has Memory Loss

  • Problem: When there are lots of buttons or menu items I often make mistakes and press the wrong ones and end up getting frustrated and wasting time.

  • Works well: I like websites that allow me to work through a series of instructions and edit boxes one after the other with clear buttons moving me to the next stage.

Maria is 50 years old, married, and lives with her family in Madrid, Spain. Maria is beginning to lose her memory but still works part-time for a local company.

6.8.1 Maria Scenario 1: Finding Key Information on Dynamic Websites

Maria needs to gather specific types of online information for her job. She often has to run through reports about the company on the company’s website. She is only able to easily read the headlines of web pages. The company’s website looks fancy, has a modern user interface and a lot of dynamic elements that change when you hover the mouse over them. For Maria this site is a total nightmare! She finally finds the link to the data she needs as it appears when she happens to hover over a certain menu item with her mouse. The link is positioned in such a bad place that she did not notice it at first. She has found that it really helps if important interactive items are placed in the usual menu areas on a screen and the icons are clearly defined and easily recognizable.

6.8.2 Maria Scenario 2: Remembering Information Entered During a Previous Step

While ordering business cards (a multi-step process), Maria has difficulty remembering information that she enters into previous screens. On the first step she sees content choices that the process expects her to remember in subsequent screens. Additionally, the prolonged mental stress that she experiences while navigating processes inhibits her brain from producing the cells necessary to form new memories. Processes that require her to remember information from one step to another need to provide her access to any previously provided information that is required to proceed, at the exact point of use that is required, otherwise she will not be able to complete the process.

6.8.3 Maria Scenario 3: Pressing the Correct Button

Maria has bad eye hand coordination, so precise movements are hard and she often touches the wrong button on her small phone screen. This means she often presses the wrong button or digit when typing on her small phone screen. With her low letter recognition this makes typing in codes or text very unreliable. She confuses left and right so she is often pressing the off button in place of the volume. In most interactions on her phone she makes some form of mistake, such as loading a new video when she intended to expand the screen of the window she was watching. To use an application successfully it needs to have a consistent back function.

6.9 Sam: A Librarian who had a Stroke and Aphasia

  • Problem: Long sentences are hard, too many strange words and I get lost.

  • Works well: I like simple short sentences with easy words.

Sam loved his work as a librarian. He had spent his entire life surrounded by books in peaceful places where he could research his love for history. In recent years, he enjoyed using the web to explore how other people around the world saw the history of his own country and the changing views on famous people from the past. Now he was becoming depressed and very frustrated due to a recent stroke. The right side of his body was paralyzed and he had difficulty having conversations with friends and family due to aphasia. To him this meant that some of his words were muddled, his understanding was not always as clear as it had been and worst of all; he could not read as fluently as he had in the past. One handed typing was slow and he found his word finding abilities often failed him.

6.9.1 Sam Scenario 1: Having Well-spaced Text with Words that are Easy to Pick Out

Despite all the difficulties that Sam had with his beloved reading, he was determined to improve and found that if a website had no clutter or background imagery he could read the headings. He also found that if there was adequate spacing and the text was not too complex, he could pick words out and with the help of text-to-speech understand the meaning. He did not like the sound of the synthesized speech, because he found it distracting having always read silently. However, over time, he learnt to enlarge the fonts and if the page had left justified text with uneven right edges, he could find his way about by the different shapes of each paragraph. As he became more confident, he began to use some browser tools and was able to increase the line spacing and change the font style on some of his old favorite online historical documents.

6.9.2 Sam Scenario 2: Using Edit Boxes where the Instructions Disappear

Sam had not expected to have to fill in so many online forms in order to receive benefits due to his disability. They caused immense frustration and feelings of self-doubt due to their lack of clarity. Every time he had to fill in an edit box, the instructions disappeared the minute he began to type and he could not remember what was required. He often had to refresh the page and start again to see the label in the box. Sam spent so long on the task that the page would time out. He had to print it out and get help. This was really upsetting as he wanted to be independent and it often reduced him to tears. This was very unlike him, but as the doctor explained, this was linked to his stroke. He also found it very frustrating when a form required a particular way of formatting information with no example as to how to complete the action. Worse still was when the error was not clearly explained, making correction even harder. Dates, postal codes and phone numbers are a particular nightmare.

6.9.3 Sam Scenario 3: Trying to Activate Elements that have been Mis-recognized

The effects of aphasia with acquired dyslexia can be exhausting and confusing but most worrying for Sam was the sense of getting lost on a web page that he thought he knew. He admitted to being nervous when he could not pick out elements in a page that required an interaction. Sometimes he said he did not dare click on a button in case he did something wrong or was sent to somewhere without warning. Sam found this aspect of his web surfing very alarming, as in the past he had been able to navigate with ease. He discovered that the edges of shapes did not appear as clear as they should have been when people use pale greys and he missed links unless expressly highlighted. If a pop-up window suddenly appeared, there were times when he could not close it to return to the page. Small crosses became a nightmare and Sam stressed that the more things happened on a page, the more confused he became. He mentioned the fact that some sites were easier on his tablet as then it all seemed to flow one way and he could just scroll up and down until he felt happy with a decision.

6.9.4 Sam Scenario 4: Coping with Complex Language

When text was written in the passive voice or in an academic manner with long complex words Sam struggled to sometimes understand their meaning even if they were in context. He also found, if he was required to use the same type of language in a form, that he had to copy the words as he could not always spell them and at times he used the wrong word. When he was able to use an app that enabled the text to be read aloud, he could cope if the language was clear and the sentences were kept short. He liked articles that were written in the active tense so he could understand the main ideas straight away.

6.10 Tom: A Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor

  • Problem: I got lost making the order and I wanted to go back to the previous step. I hit the back key in the browser and it reloaded the home page. I had to start over.

  • Works well: There was a clear back button on each step and when I used the browser back button it also worked.

Tom was involved in a very serious car crash that left him with some physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities having sustained a brain injury. He has returned to work, but often finds communications strained due to difficulties with memory recollection and visual understanding.

Tom had to learn how to walk, talk, and basically live life all over again. Medical experts informed him that his greatest chances for recovery would take place within the first 2 years after his injury. After that he may continue to recover, but at a much slower, and incremental rate. His friends and family were amazed by how quickly he regained his ability to speak, and perform his daily life functions. They were perplexed, however, by all of the cognitive difficulties he expressed having, despite his clear ability to articulate and communicate. For example, he often cannot recognize images and faces. He gets disorientated in physical spaces and often gets lost in rooms, as well as buildings, larger places, documents and websites.

He has now returned to his old company as a researcher and is back using applications and the Internet throughout his working day.

6.10.1 Tom Scenario 1: Using Speech Recognition to Navigate the Web

Tom has dexterity difficulties so he sometimes uses speech recognition to work through web pages and enter text. He finds this method the least tiring of all the possible input options. Although his speech is slow, he is able to control his computer using speech commands and dictation. It is quite easy to use simple commands to control websites, although there are times when he forgets some of the commands and has to use his cheat sheet. Tom likes the scroll commands that allow him to read slowly down a page without using any other input device and he can often retrace his steps as he has to reread items. However, there can be problems if the forms on the website are not labeled correctly or if buttons do not have clear names. Tom had help personalizing some aspects of form completion, but if an element is inaccessible via the keyboard, he has to use the mouse grid to interact with that part of the site. This is a slow process and can be frustrating as Tom finds he loses concentration.

6.10.2 Tom Scenario 2: Finding the Right Words to Use for Searching

Tom finds there are times when he spells words incorrectly and he appreciates error corrections or a system that accepts mistakes. He also has word finding problems when he is tired and he welcomes search suggestions, as these are ideas that might be related to his search. However, too many results can cause concern and Tom admits he really cannot work his way through very long lists that have not been broken up with headings and categories.

6.10.3 Tom Scenario 3: Being Confident that he Understands the Content

Tom has difficulty understanding content when it is not explicitly clear, and without any ambiguity whatsoever. He takes a notably longer amount of time to read and process information in order to be certain that he is interpreting it correctly. His interpretation of information is almost always correct, but even the slightest bit of ambiguity, or open interpretation creates sticking points that he must read over and over again, and question every which way until he can assure himself with the confidence that he understands it correctly. Examples and clear step-by-step instructions can help him have the confidence to complete his task. Simple, clear memorable graphics or large indicators of steps in a process can increase Tom’s understanding, confidence and orientation in a process.

6.10.4 Tom Scenario 4: Understanding where Information is in a Hierarchical Structure

Tom tries to understand the outline of the page and site, so that he does not get lost in the content. Sometimes he dives into the website but then he does not know where he is in the content or task. Clear and consistent headings in a hierarchical structure are needed for Tom to understand the level of importance of content and a clear site structure lets him orientate himself in the site.

He values simple, clear graphics that relate to the content and break it up. These help him orient as well as understand and remember the content. This also includes the following user needs: Symbols that emphasize the structure and role of the content or an image that accompanies the main text and makes it memorable.

6.10.5 Tom Scenario 5: Cognitive Overload

Complex presentations of information (images, diagrams, content heavy web pages, etc.) overload Tom’s cognitive functioning. This shuts his brain down and prevents him from progressing through processes, navigating, systems, and environments, and understanding the information presented, at both the micro and macro level.

Liberal use of white space can decrease the cognitive load where there is a considerable amount of content on one page.

6.10.6 Tom Scenario 5: Struggling with Directions

When using a mapping program to find his way to a location, Tom struggles to quickly respond to spoken directions and finds route changes very difficult to adjust to. Tom benefits from previewing the directions before he leaves and being able to change the settings so that directions are given using driver's side and passenger's side instead of left and right and the route does not change automatically.

7. Glossary

Age Appropriate Forgetfulness

Sometimes called "age related memory loss"

People with age appropriate forgetfulness have impaired memory issues that can be a normal part of healthy aging. They may take longer to learn new things, forget something but remember it later, or occasionally forget particular words. (This differs from dementia where forgetfulness is due to a disorder and is more pronounced.)

Alternative and Augmentative Communication System

Sometimes referred to as "AAC"

Any method, device or app that can be used to help those who cannot use spoken language and need additional support by means of symbols, images and/or text. For example a screen with symbols that the user can select to speak the appropriate words or add them to a document.

Anxiety Disorders

People who have anxiety disorders struggle with intense and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, and/or panic. This is more than just feeling worried once in a while. This may last for a long time and can interfere with daily activities, such as concentration and executive functioning.

Attention Deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, AD(H)D

Sometimes called Attention deficit disorder, ADD, and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD

Attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder or AD(H)D involves difficulty focusing on a single task, focusing for longer periods, or being easily distracted. It is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Sometimes called “autism,” “Asperger syndrome,” and “pervasive developmental disorder”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by some degree of impaired social behavior, communication and language abilities. This may also impact the person’s ability to regulate behavior and attention. Individuals can have a narrow range of interests and activities and they may rely on alternative communication methods. Some individuals may also experience episodes of sensory overload. See neurodiversity for an alternative approach to ASD and other cognitive disabilities.

Brain Injury

Brain injury including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), are caused by damage to the brain which can lead to long-term impairment of executive function, memory, learning, coordination, speech and emotions as well as other physical and sensory impairments.

Brain injury can have many different causes such as a concussion or stroke, and can happen at any stage of life.

Cognitive and Learning Disabilities

May include: Cognitive Disabilities, Learning Disabilities (LD), Intellectual Disabilities and Specific Learning Disability

Cognitive disabilities and learning disabilities can mean different things in different locations. Taken together they refer to:

  • Significantly reduced ability in one or more areas of cognitive function that affect learning, such as communication, reading, writing or math. Note overall intelligence is often not affected and people may function any level in other areas of learning. (Sometimes known as learning disability or specific learning disability) and / or
  • Significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and learn new skills, with a reduced ability to cope independently. (Sometimes known as cognitive disability, learning disability or intellectual disability) and / or
  • Significantly reduced memory and attention or visual, verbal or numerical thinking
Early Stage Dementia

Common impairments of early stage dementia include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word. These may appear before a diagnosis of dementia. At this stage, these symptoms are often mild.

Easy Reading

Easy reading refers to text content that is in an accessible, easy to understand, form. It is often useful for people with learning disabilities, and is easier for many other people as well.

Executive Function

The group of cognitive processes and skills required for planning, fulfilling tasks and goals. It includes working memory and remembering details, impulse inhibition, organizing tasks, managing time, fluid reasoning and solving problems.

Memory impairments

Memory impairments refer to an inability to recognize or recall pieces of information or skills that are usually remembered. It can affect:

  • Working memory that holds information while it is processed. For example, we rely on working memory for tasks such as copying a number.
  • Short-term Memory that stores information for a short time before it is stored in long-term memory. For example, we may rely on short-term memory to remember the location of menus items between web pages
  • Long-term Memory that holds information long term, such as information from personal events, language and information. For example, we may rely on long-term memory to recall past events.
Mental health

Includes: Mental health impairment

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. A mental health impairment/condition generally has some combination of disturbed thoughts, emotions and ability to relate to others that impairs daily functioning. Examples include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions may cause temporary or long term issues with accessing information, such as difficulty focusing on information, processing information, or understanding it.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related challenges. It is sometimes considered the stage between the common and expected age appropriate forgetfulness and the more serious decline of dementia although many or most people with MCI will not develop dementia.

Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people naturally think about things differently. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD(H)D), Dyslexia, and other diagnoses or labels may prefer the term “neurodiverse” as they are part of normal and healthy variation in the human population, bringing diverse skills and perspectives.

A. Appendix: Mapping User Needs, Persona and Patterns

Mapping user needs, patterns, and persona

A.1 Objective 1: Help users understand what things are and how to use them

User Stories Patterns Scenarios
Clear Purpose
  • Make the purpose of your page clear
  • Use symbols that help the user

Related Patterns

  • Ensure the hierarchy of the site and menu structure is logical, easy to identify and navigate
  • Use a clear and understandable page structure
  • Ensure the most important things are easy to find
  • Make each step clear
Clear Operation
  • Use a design that the user is likely to recognize and understand
  • Use a consistent visual design
  • Clearly identify controls and their use
  • Make the relationship clear between controls and what they affect

Related Patterns

  • Ensure the most important things are easy to find
  • Clearly state the results and disadvantages of actions, options, and selections
Symbols (pictographic or ideographic that represent concepts)
  • Use symbols that help the user
  • Support a personalized and familiar interface

A.2 Objective 2: Help the user find what they need

  • Break media into chunks
  • User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Findable
    • Make it easy to identify the most important tasks and features of the site
    • Ensure the most important things are easy to find

    Related Patterns

    • Provide search
    • Make short critical paths
    • Notify users of fees and charges at the start of a task
    • Provide information so a user can complete and prepare for a task
    Searchable
    • Provide search
    Clear Navigation
    • Ensure the hierarchy of the site and menu structure is logical, easy to identify and navigate
    • Use a clear and understandable page structure
    Media
    • Break media into chunks

    A.3 Objective 3: Use clear and understandable content and text

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Clear Language (Written or Audio)
    • Use clear words
    • Use a simple tense and voice
    • Avoid double negatives or nested clauses
    • Use literal language
    • Keep text succinct
    • Use clear, unambiguous text formatting and punctuation
    • Include symbols and letters necessary to decipher the words
    • Explain Implied Content
    • Provide a Summary of Documents and Media
    Visual Presentation
    • Separate each instruction
    • Use white spacing
    • Ensure foreground content is not obscured by background

    Related Patterns

    • Use a clear and understandable page structure
    • Use symbols that help the user
    • Keep text succinct
    Math Concepts
    • Provide alternatives for numbers

    Related Patterns

    • Enable APIs and extensions

    A.4 Objective 4: Help Users Avoid Mistakes or Correct Them

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Assistance and Support
    • Ensure controls and content do not move unexpectedly
    • Design forms to prevent mistakes
    • Use clear visible labels
    • Provide flexible form inputs
    • Avoid data loss and "time outs"
    • Provide feedback
    • Notify users of fees and charges at the start of a task
    • Keep the users' information safe and help users understand known risks
    • Use familiar metrics and units

    Related Patterns

    • Let users control when the content changes
    • Provide help for forms and non-standard controls
    • Enable APIs and extensions
    Undo
    • Let users go back
    • Make it easy to undo form errors

    A.5 Objective 5: Help the user focus and restore context if attention is lost

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Distractions
    • Limit interruptions
    • Avoid too much content
    • Provide information so a user can complete and prepare for a task
    • Make short critical paths

    Related Patterns

    • Clearly state the results and disadvantages of actions, options, and selections
    • Make the purpose of your page clear
    • Make each step clear
    • Use a clear and understandable page structure

    A.6 Objective 6: Processes do not rely on memory

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Previous Steps
    • Do not rely on users memorizing information
    Accessible Authentication
    • Provide a login that does not rely on memory or other cognitive skills
    • Allow the user a simple, single step, login
    • Provide a login alternative with less words

    Related Patterns

    • Do not rely on users memorizing information
    Voice Menus
    • Let users avoid navigating voice menus

    Related Patterns

    • Limit interruptions

    A.7 Objective 7: Provide help and support

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Help
    • Provide help and alternative content for complex information and tasks
    • Provide help with directions
    • Provide human help
    • Make it easy to find help and give feedback
    Support
    • Provide reminders

    Related Patterns

    • Use symbols that help the user
    • Provide feedback
    • Provide help and alternative content for complex information and tasks
    • Enable APIs and extensions
    • Support a personalized and familiar interface
    Cognitive Stress
    • Clearly state the results and disadvantages of actions, options, and selections

    Related Patterns

    • Notify users of fees and charges at the start of a task
    • Keep users' information safe and help users understand known risks
    Task Management
    • Provide help for forms and non-standard controls

    Related Patterns

    • Use clear visible labels
    • Provide information so a user can complete and prepare for a task

    A.8 Objective 8: Adapt and Personalize

    User Stories Patterns Scenarios
    Adapt
    • Let users control when the content changes
    • Support simplification
    • Support a personalized and familiar interface

    Related Patterns

    • Use symbols that help the user
    • Provide alternatives for numbers
    • Provide help and alternative content for complex information and tasks
    • Enable APIs and extensions
    Extensions and APIs Enable APIs and extensions

    B. Appendix: Considerations for Uptake in Different Contexts and Policies

    Many agencies and services are required to use plain language and to be usable by vulnerable groups. This document will help content developers know what to do to achieve this goal across different geographical areas and include user groups of people with learning and cognitive disabilities. In addition many sites want to reach user groups such as millennials with learning disabilities and people with age-appropriate forgetfulness. This can be because of their commitment to inclusion, or to enable growth in these high value, under-serviced, markets. Typically, there are many more people in the target audience with a cognitive or learning disability than the content provider is aware of, and many content providers are often losing these user groups.

    User considerations should be taken into account when deciding how to apply this document. For instance, Web content and applications that affect individual safety concerns, health, critical services, autonomy, care-giving, social integration, and workplace needs should follow as much of the advice in this document as possible.

    This Appendix provides guidance and considerations on how to use this document and the design patterns (general, repeatable solutions to commonly occurring problems) to build a policy or requirements regarding web content to ensure that the needs of individuals with learning or cognitive disabilities are addressed. Web content designed without consideration for the needs of individuals with learning or cognitive disabilities may create accessibility barriers to the needs of the end-user. Development of a plan or policy includes the following steps which are discussed in this section:

    1. Define the scenarios to be included in the policy (i.e., address the environments or situations in which the policy will apply)
    2. Review the different design pattern criteria and decide if they are relevant to the environmental or situational scenarios.
    3. Develop a policy with requirements based on an analysis of the environmental or situational scenarios and the design pattern criteria

    Policy makers should:

    User considerations should also be taken into account when developing scenario-based policies, such as individual safety concerns, autonomy and savings in care-giving, and the cost of individuals with cognitive or learning disabilities leaving the workforce more than necessary due to lack of appropriately designed content or interfaces.

    The following are examples of scenarios that may be covered by a policy:

    Examples of scenario-based policies:

    C. Appendix: Testable Statements for Each Pattern

    There are ongoing efforts to make testable statements for each design patterns with corresponding test processes, failure examples, etc.

    Note that in many cases, the testable statement only covers the part of the design pattern that is automatically testable. A full table of the draft testable options are available at Testable Statements for COGA Design Patterns.

    The Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce intends to continue working on these statements as a supplement to the design guide.

    D. Appendix: Business Considerations

    Editor's note
    This section is an early draft. The task force is considering adding a section on the business case for inclusion of people with age related cognitive impairments and learning disabilities. The task force would like feedback on whether you would find future versions of section useful and if we should continue working on it.

    This document can help you meet the needs of underserviced end-users such as high net worth senior citizens:

    D.1 The Aging Population as a Market

    One of the most reliable market projections is that the population is aging. More consumers are older, and more of the wealth is in the control an older demographic.

    As people age, disabilities increase. This includes age-appropriate forgetfulness and a slower speed of learning new designs. This may make consumers feel excluded and that their needs are not considered. Accessibility can give the consumer the trust and feeling of being looked after. In contrast, if a site is difficult for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, the older population is likely to feel that the group is not interested in them as a market.

    On the other hand, according to Georgia State University's Center for Mature Consumer Studies, today's mature market (those aged 55 and above) already controls 75 percent of America's wealth and 70 percent of its disposable income. Clearly, this expanding demographic is an important market for many organizations.

    Additional studies have shown that the mature market is no longer off line and may even be outpacing younger user groups when it comes to adopting new technologies and online media. However, their online needs may be underserviced and seniors manage to complete only 55.3% of tasks online.

    For additional information, see the Developer resources page.

    E. Appendix: Change Log

    The full commit history to personalization semantics content is available.

    E.1 Significant editorial changes since the First Public Working Draft

    F. Appendix: Acknowledgments

    F.1 Participants active in the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force at the time of publication

    F.2 Other Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force contributors, commenters, and previously active participants

    F.3 Enabling funders

    This publication has been funded in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) under contract HHSP23301500054. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or official policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Some of the work on this project has also received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.780529 and 643399.