Universal design and cognitive accessibility

Partial view of a bronze statue of a man with his head in his hand. It represents thinking. Universal design for cognitive accessibility.Universal design is most commonly associated with the built environment. This is where the physical barriers to inclusion are most visible. But the concept of universal design goes beyond this to include cognitive accessibility.

Emily Steel writes a concise article on how universal design informs cognitive accessibility standards. There are many types of cognitive disability and it would be difficult to have separate standards for each one. So the working group has adopted the Universal Design for Learning framework to promote better design for all people.

Brightly coloured strips lay on top of each other, each one with the day of the week. Universal design for cognitive accessibility.The working group has published two standards since forming in 2015. The first provides guidelines for the design of products to support daily time management. The second is about the design and development of systems, products, services and built environments. A third standard is under development. This one sets out the requirements for reporting the cognitive accessibility of products and systems. 

As an international standard, working group participants come from around the world and include people with diverse cognition. Online meetings replaced the face to face workshops during the COVID pandemic. 

The article, published in Design for All India Newsletter, provides more detail about how the group works. It’s Article 2 in the October 2021 edition. The online Newsletter is produced in Verdana Bold and is fully justified. It also includes a lot of Italicised text. 

You can directly download the article titled, Universal design informs cognitive accessibility standards

Interested in this work?

The working group is keen to integrate lived experiences into the guidelines and any revisions. If you are interested in this work you can contact the Technical Committee Secretariat

Dr Emily Steel is the Australian delegate on the International Standards Organization (ISO) cognitive accessibility working group. She also conducted a workshop at the Australian Universal Design Conference UD2021. Dr Steel is also a CUDA board member.

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