HCI Education

Cognitive Disability

There are two reasons for considering cognitive disability in HCI education:

  • because some of our students may have some sort of disability or syndrome
  • because they need to design systems for other people who may be

However, as with physical disability, considering cognitive disability reminds us that every student and every user thinks differently, we need to educate and to design assuming this. Furthermore under stress, when tired, when aging, we are all likely to experience various forms of reduced cognitive functioning - reduction in short term memory, ability to reason clearly etc.

This page was originally created to support "the right mind?" my SIGCHI Bulletin Column on HCI Education in Jan 2001, but I try to keep it up-to-date.

Designing for Cognitive Limitations, workshop at Dis'2012, 12 June 2012

General resources

World Wide Web Consortium - Web Accessibility Initiative
Nixty Primer for Educators on Learning Disabilities
Tutorial developed by National Center for Learning Disabilities and Teachers Without Borders, to help educators understand students with learning disabilities.
NCDDR - National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research
General site about disability research. See particularly a 2003 editorial about "Web Accessibility for People with Cognitive Disabilities"
Disability and Information Systems in Higher Education (DISinHE)
A project funded by the UK Higher Education Funding Councils
(Note in the UK Higher Education refers to University level education)
One output of DISinHE is the National Internet Accessibility Database
this lists references to many resources hardware, software, educational materials etc.
IHM-HCI 2001 Tutorial - Enabling technology for users with special needs - 11th Sept. 2001, Lille
CHI 2006 Workshop on Designing Technology for People with Cognitive Impairments - 22nd April 2006, Montreal
LD Online
Extensive resource site on learning disabilities managed by WETA the Washington area US public broadcasting station. The most relevant part of the site is LD in Depth, a categorised resource listing, which includes a section on postsecondary education as well as other resources.
Disability Net
UK-based micro-portal on general disability issues with classified directory, forums etc.
Disability Network
US-based support site with chat rooms etc, mainly focusing on physical disability, but with some good links.
Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability
Broad ranging journal dealing with many aspects of developmental disabilities health, cognitive issues, social support, family lfe, etc. As well as backgorund informationon intellectual and develipment disability, some articles directly related to educational issues, for example, acinle of articiles in vol 31(4).

Accessibility articles and sites

Information on accessibility for cognitive disabilities has grown considerably since this page was first created in 2001.

An Accessibility Frontier: Cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties
Discusses particular web based accessibility issues and practical advice. The page has varios options to change its style so it is a 'living' example.
Universal Usability web site devleiped by students at University of Maryland. Includes section on cognitive disability with overview of state-of0the-art and useful rfeference list.
WebAIM - Web Accessibility in Mind
General accessibility web site including section on design considerations for cognitive disability and a dyslexia simulator
Academic Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities
Guidance on ways to ease the integration of students with learning disabilties into higher education..
Report on Cognitive Disability and the Web
produce by group at University Teeside working in issues of disability in higher education

Aspergers and Autism

Although Asperger's was first identified in 1944, it was only given an official diagnosis by the American Psychological Association in 1994. After dyslexia, it is probably the cognitive disability we are most likely to encounter at University level. At the time this page was first created, information was relatively rare, but far more avauable now..

Bridging the Gap (case study)
Case study of someone with autism spectrum in higher education. Part of the Autism Society of America site, which inlcudes substantial information on all aspects of Autism and Aspergers.
In Education
Advice and resources, aimed more at school age children from the UK National Autistic Society, another site with extensive resources.
Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide For Transition To Adulthood (PDF)
This report from the Organization for Autism Research includes a chapter on Postsecondary Education (page 35)
Asperger's disorder homepage (www.aspergers.com)
by Kaan R. Ozbayrak,Chief Medical Officer, Southwest Behavioral Health Services, Phoenix, Arizona – terse but useful factual infornation about Asperger's
New Scientist interview 14th April 2001
Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University Autism Research Centre talks to New Scientist about new theories of Autism spectrum and work on adulty diagnosis including their 10 test for Asperger's
The Autism Advantage, New York Times, 29th Nov 2012
An article about Specialisterne, a Danish compnay whose autistic-only workforce tackle jobs that non-autistic people can't do.
Caring 4 Our Kids
Resources for parents of children with autism spectrum and related disorders.


British Dyslexia Association
The main British organisation dealing with dyslexia including educational information. The site is sadly still 'half built' - in particular, sections for categorised information and web links are not ready, but there is a FAQ with some info.
The International Dyslexia Association
An international charity and main dyslexia organisation in the US with extensive web site. The IDA was formerly called "The Orton Dyslexia Society", named after Samuel Orton, who was an early worker on dyslexia.
Dyslexia Action
Another UK educational charity. Biggest UK based dyslexia teaching organisation. Site has good links, but principally aimed at school age teaching.
A Framework for Understanding Dyslexia
UK Dept. for Education and Skills guidance for post-16 education and training.
Dyslexia the gift
Commercial web site of Davis Dyslexia Association International. However, has a number of freely available reports etc.
Adult Dyslexia Organisation
UK support and research charity. Their activities including research an accessibility for dyslexia and was reported in a UsabilityNews article "Dyslexia List launches with Major Research Programme into Accessibility Guidance"
Web accessibility for dyslexia
Several sites offer advice including Manchester University "Web Accessibility for Dyslexia", Accessibility101 "Designing for Dyslexia", e-bility "Enabling the Internet for people with dyslexia" and dyslexic.com "Accessibility Statement"

Williams Syndrome

Williams is a single gene disorder, like Down's Syndorme, unlike Autism and Aspergers, which have no simple cause. From a Williams is linked with both specific cognitive disability and also physical symptoms.

Genetics of Williams Syndrome
information about the genetic cause of Williams part of the Genetics Science Learning Centre
(The GSLC web page spells Williams with an apostrophe. As far as I can gather the spelling without is more common, and I assume correct.)
Williams Syndrome Foundation (UK) - information
Wiliams Syndrome Association (US)
Comprehensive WS Home Page
Williams Syndrome Foundation (US)
Different Minds, an article about Williams Syndrome