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Designing for a Broad Spectrum of Cognitive Abilities

taught by: Kurt Mattes


One person needs to see all the options to decide something, like selecting a color when ordering a shirt online. Another person is overwhelmed if too much information is provided at once. It could be the same person who needs both, less in the morning and more later in the day. Its a conundrum.

Designing for the wide variety of occasionally opposing needs people with different cognitive abilities have is a game changer. Resolving some of the problems will require tomorrow’s technology, however several problems can be addressed today. You’ll learn about 2 primary approaches for including people across a broad spectrum of cognitive abilities and a variety of techniques for each approach.

This session will leave you with a new appreciation for design flexibility. Your thinking about design will seek to find balance between maintaining control over look and feel while giving the user a significant amount of control over their experience. And when new technologies give users more control, you’ll be ready to design for UI and UX variations those features provide.

You’ll also be prepared for several of the new Success Criteria in version 2.1 of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Proposed changes include more end user control over animations, text spacing, and content that renders when hovered or has focus. Other changes require providing more information about icons, UI controls, regions of content, and timeouts. After this session, the intent behind some of the changes will be much more apparent.

Practical Skills:

  • Design concepts to accommodate mutually exclusive, diametrically opposite needs are the primary focus of this session. Attendees will gain a solid understanding of the types of problems people with cognitive disabilities encounter using today’s technologies and the unavoidable barriers created by one-size-fits-all designs. A variety of techniques to help the user eliminate those barriers will be presented. Designers will walk away with an exciting new frontier to explore, giving the “U” in UI and UX more control over content rendering and interactions.


  • None

Presentation Materials: