Development of Uniform Standards for Cognitive Technologies 

If you or someone you know meets the criteria to help with this project please take our Survey here. 

Project Summary

Technology, whether it is in a computer or a toaster, holds great promise to improve the lives of people with cognitive impairment. The set of standards being developed by this project will encourage design for varying cognitive needs; the development of an Ease-of-Use Reporting System will allow for informed consumer choices.

Many consumer products or specific features within them serve as memory aids, organizers, and facilitators of social life. Our lives are full of cognitive aids, though many are not intentionally designed for people with cognitive impairment. Identifying the specific features needed by those who have the most challenges with learning, memory, and meaning will improve design for everybody.

What products will we work with?

Initial work will focus on devices and hardware:

  • Assistive technologies such as speech generating devices
  • Consumer technologies such as cell phones, laptops, and digital music players
  • Household appliances such as microwaves and fire extinguishers

Eventually, we plan to expand to software:

  • Internet resources such as email, social networking, and popular sites
  • Assistive technologies such as screen readers
  • Popular cell phone applications

Whom do we specifically seek to help with these standards and reports?

  • People who have cognitive impairments or disabilities, such as: Alzheimer's, Down Syndrome, Attention Disorder, Learning Disability, Autism Parkinson's Disease, Brain Injury, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy
  • People who are at different developmental stages: Children, Elderly
  • People who have difficulty communicating or who speak a different language

Visit the Cognitive Accessibility Facebook page. You can share your ideas about making technology easier to use and see the latest news stories about technologies for people with cognitive impairment.

Project Goals

This project will:

  • develop uniform standards for cognitive technologies, and
  • develop an Ease-of-Use Reporting System for products of value to people with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.

What are Standards?

Standards define design features for a product. Universal design for differing physical abilities is, for example, made possible by standards for buildings, street curbs, and web pages. Basic groundwork is needed to identify design issues that have implications for people with cognitive impairment. This work is a component of this project. We plan to identify these features, draft technical standards for designers and manufacturers, and promote their adoption.
RESNA Standards Committee on Cognitive Technology

RESNA Assistive Technology Standards Committees are open to anyone that is interested in providing input into the standards development process. Each committee is required to have balanced participation by consumers, prescribers, clinicians, manufacturers, etc. All perspectives are welcomed and encouraged, including family members, caregivers, teachers, vendors, dealers, insurance providers, consumer groups, government organization representatives, etc. To participate in the RESNA Standards Committee on Cognitive Technology, please fill out and submit the RESNA-CT Membership Form.

What is the Ease-of-Use Reporting System?

The Ease-of-Use Reporting System will identify key product features and report their level of complexity.

The report for cell phones, for example, could indicate the number of available commands. A simple phone that calls a small number of pre-programmed numbers might receive five stars or an "A" report. A top-selling smart phone loaded with numerous applications might receive less stars or a "C" or "D" report for this feature.

Additional reports on cell phones could address the number of application layers, the number of program modes, the ease of error correction, the types of icons, the text size in the display, the display contrast, and the button size. The Ease-of-Use Reporting System could also be applied to a specific cell phone application.

Benefits of Standards and an Ease-of-Use Reporting System for Cognitive Technologies

Identifying features needed by people with cognitive impairment will help manufacturers design for a larger market. Other benefits include:

  • improved design for all people,
  • a better match between product and person,
  • increased use of helpful technologies,
  • the ability to use affordable consumer products as assistive technology, and
  • greater independence for people with cognitive impairment.

Project Brochure

236survey/236 Brochure 2012-01-05.pdf


The Development of Uniform Standards for Cognitive Technologies project is part of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT) awarded to the University of Colorado Denver. For more information on the RERC-ACT, please visit


Development of Uniform Standards for Cognitive Technologies is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research under the US Department of Education, Grant #H133E090003 and the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.