Mozfest: Cognitive Accessibility 101

Alastair Somerville
4 min readSep 20, 2017


I’m running a short workshop on design for Cognitive Accessibility at the Mozilla Foundation’s Mozfest in London in October.

The proposal I wrote said:

A simple introduction to design for cognitive impairment (in physical and digital environments). The workshop will show some examples of the problems caused by cognitively inaccessible design and show a simple framework for designing for cognitive impairments.

The workshop uses experience from Alastair Somerville’s work in museums and public realm design as well as clearly linking to the important digital standards work of the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force of W3C.

The workshop will be interactive to allow for participants to provide greater insight from their own lived experiences and use an open session to use the design framework in practice.

Some of the themes for the workshop came up when I was running a workshop about Design for the Mind and cognitive accessibility at the Doing Dementia Design conference in Liverpool last week.

There is a Medium post on the three main ideas I presented there.

Workshop slidedeck

Cognitive Accessibility 101 cover slide

I have uploaded a PDF copy of the workshop slidedeck to Dropbox here.

More resources

There are many more slidedecks on design for dementia available here.

A couple I particularly recommend are What we already know about design for dementia by Hammond Care and Creating Dementia Friendly Environments by FIND.

There is W3C (web standards) working group who are doing lots of work and have a page here.

This FastCompany article on design for autistic children raises some interesting points but also some of the core issues of personalisation and contradiction between different user needs. This Center For Autism Research guide is similar.

Do take care with these links as they are often written in terms of design FOR not BY or WITH people with cognitive impairments. The W3C group does definitely have members with lived experiences.

Please add any other links to resources in the Comments section and I will share them here (with credit of course) and at Mozfest.

More resources

I have been sent a couple of videos created by the BBC (thanks to Leena Haque). They are from work that they have done on supporting neurodiversity at work.

Also from the BBC website is a Word of Mouth programme on language and autism. You can download it from here.

The Guardian newspaper has this immersive VR autism experience here. Please note this warning from the website: Warning: this film contains effects which may cause anxiety for some viewers

The Guardian also has a report on autism and employment here which discusses social and architectural design issues.

From Twitter, @TinctureOfMuseum pointed here for a page of autism-friendly web design principles from the National Autistic Society.

Some things to think about now

Before Mozfest, I just want to mention some ideas and issues now.

  1. Cognitive Accessibility and design for neurodiversity (including, but not limited to, autism, dementia and dyslexia) is a new area so there are no set standards yet and that’s why we need to talk more now.
  2. The ideas, and in particular the design framework, I’ll be presenting at Mozfest come from the work I’ve done in the UK. I am using them not to define the conversation but simply as a starting point to provoke different conversations.
  3. I will post as much content as possible prior to the event for people to read when and where they are comfortable. I am highly aware that a busy conference may not be the best place for many conversations and so will leave digital channels open for whomever wishes to talk, tell their own experiences and show alternative resources or ways of designing effectively.
  4. One of the key issues arising from project work is how contradiction between user needs is a real design problem. How we design compassionate spaces (physically and digitally) is something I am highly interested in. It also means that, on the day, I must try facilitate respectfully and try and balance differing needs. If I begin to fail, let me know.

That’s it for this post. I will update as we get closer to the event and as I collect more material for the day.


I’m at Mozfest now and so spent time on Saturday looking around for material to discuss.

Most of this update is about contradictions. Many things are both Good and Bad.

Good/Bad is a design state we’ve got to get comfortable with perceiving. Places (digital and physical) that are both inclusive and exclusive, comforting and uncomfortable.

Which state the design is in depends on the person, in the place, at that time.

The Good/Bad

The conference is held in the Ravensbourne College building which is modern, light and very open.

This also means the space is quite large and can be overwhelming.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX