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Glossary » cognitive impairment

cognitive impairment

any limitation in the ability to think or reason that affects a person’s capacity to perform a task. Cognitive impairments can be congenital or the result of a head injury, stroke, or disease. Head injuries in particular can result in very localized damage, producing highly-specific problems. Many cognitive impairments are quite common, such as attention difficulties and dyslexia.

Because cognitive impairments span such a wide range of problems, there are really no broad solutions in interface design that help everyone, though general usability recommendations that help reduce cognitive load for everyone will often provide some benefit, in particular: minimize the load on working memory, simplify tasks, organize interfaces to minimize error, be forgiving and allow users to undo mistakes. Cognitive impairments are often less observable and well-defined than other types of impairments, so it is helpful to consult a doctor or learning specialist to help clarify the exact nature of the impairment.