This is an unpublished draft preview that might include content that is not yet approved. The published website is at

Design Guide Overview

This is the interactive web version of the Design Guide. See the Web Version Notes.

TODO - link to more existing WAI Web site resources

Changes from doc: Small editorial changes


This document is a design guide to help make Web Content more usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities (COGA). The guide is organized into Objectives, each of which contains a number of Patterns that can be applied to a design.

If you are a person with a learning or cognitive challenge and would like to recommend an Objective or Pattern that we have not covered or have another recommendation please let us know! You can email us with your comments and ideas at


Techniques that make websites and applications friendly for people with cognitive impairments need to be addressed in every part of a design and development process. Following an Inclusive Design approach can help ensure that no one is unable to use a web resource or finds it difficult.

Traditionally accessibility has been most focused on the interface and making that usable for people with sensory and physical impairments. For example, technical accessibility techniques for vision, hearing and/or mobility. Some of these accessibility techniques will also be effective in helping people with cognitive impairments.

Often however, cognitive barriers are caused by context, language, usability, and other more general ‘design’ factors. So, these need to be addressed during the early design stages of user interface development and during content creation. Following good design Patterns benefits everyone to some degree, but bad design Patterns can completely stop someone with cognitive and learning disabilities.

In order to to help you better understand the issues, we have provided some background about people with learning and cognitive disabilities and the web. We have also created a number of Personas that provide context and understanding of common user requirements (NB these should be merged into the WAI site)

This guide presents a number of effective design Patterns which when applied, will make a significant contribution to ensuring good cognitive accessibility and also improve wider usability. The Patterns are grouped into design Objectives which each cover an important area of cognitive accessibility.

In addition to the Patterns, each Objective includes User Stories which describe the experiences that user expect and that minimizes barriers to access. The User Stories will hep you develop practical and useful User Testing strategies that accurately include critical user requirements. Just understanding the Objectives and user stories may enable better design decisions to be made. But, the Patterns provide practical steps that can be applied to a design process so content is more accessible to people with cognitive and learning disabilities.



The design Patterns contained in this guide are organized into the following Objectives:

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This is an unpublished draft preview that might include content that is not yet approved. The published website is at