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Designing for Neurodiversity

taught by: Kate Walser
co-presented by: Jennifer Gauvreau

Session Summary

Ask a team how they’ve made their product accessible, and they may be delighted to describe their approach. Probe deeper and ask that same team if they are accounting for different types of brain functioning (neurodiversity), and you may be met with a blank look.


Find Designing for Neurodiversity on the Knowbility Learning Center

Over the past 20 years, accessibility standards have evolved to greatly improve accessibility for people with different visual, hearing, and motor abilities. Accessibility standards and testing are now a common component in large organizational best practices and product lifecycles.

However, best practices for cognitive accessibility – effective approaches for meeting the needs of people with neurodivergent brain functioning – are less understood. Why? Perhaps it is because conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and other learning disabilities are often “invisible” to others. Maybe it’s the challenge of trying to generalize “best practices” given the wide range of individual experiences and preferences even within a single diagnosis or label.

Understanding what neurodiversity is and how natural variations in brain processing affect our user audiences is an opportunity to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in our workplaces and communities. And a side benefit? Designing for cognitive differences helps to improve usability for other audiences as well.

Join us as discuss how neurodiversity affects how users perceive and use content and apps, and how aspects like minimalism, user control, structure, and hints help.

Practical Skills

  • Understand what neurodiversity and neurodivergence are
  • Learn what World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidance exists to help designers reduce barriers for neurodivergent users
  • Discuss practical examples of issues and solutions