Georgia Tech Research Institute

Labeling: Issue 6 of 6

Issue: Instructions may be difficult for users with cognitive impairments to understand.

A museum kiosk screen shows three icons (history, culture, and science), along with a set of complex instructions that read 'The museum is divided into three section.  There aer subcategories under each.  Please select the category that best describes your interest.'

Instructions that are poorly written, overly complex, or that are written at too high a reading level may lead to comprehension problems for users with cognitive impairments. Instructions describing a series of sequential actions may also be confusing, if the instructions are poorly structured.

Populations Impacted: Users with cognitive impairments.

Potential Solutions:
  • Use simple language in instructions. Use the simplest language that conveys the required information. Use familiar words, and use short sentences and paragraphs. Use the imperative form of verbs (e.g., "Insert memory card into the memory card slot" instead of "Memory card should be inserted into the memory card slot"). Use appropriate illustrations to reinforce the contents of the text.

  • A museum kiosk screen shows three icons (history, culture, and science), along with a set of simple instructions that read 'Select one of the following categories.'
  • Ensure that instructions are grammatically correct and free from typographical errors. Instructions should be reviewed by a technical writer or a proficient editor who is familiar with the device for which the instructions were written.

  • Separate steps in a sequence into individual instructions. Break instructions into individual steps that users can read and execute before proceeding to the next step. Present the steps in the order in which they must be performed, and use bullets or numbering to distinguish individual steps and reinforce the order of steps. White space should be used to separate steps.

  • Provide structure to the steps by grouping them into sub-goals. A long sequence of actions may appear to lack structure, making it difficult for users to understand. Provide structure by using headings to group sets of related steps. Use of indentation can help delineate sets of sub-steps.

  • Ensure that the sequence of actions is presented unambiguously and in the proper order, especially if the instructions are presented via speech output. Instructions for actions should be presented in the order in which they are to be executed (e.g., "Press the eject button before removing memory card" instead of "Before removing memory card, press the eject button").

  • Place CONDITION before ACTION. Goals or conditions for action should be presented before the action, especially if the instructions are presented via speech output. For example, use the form "To view directions to your selected destination, press 1" rather than "Press 1 to view directions to your selected destination."

  • Test instructions with members of the user population to ensure that they are easy to understand and to follow. User testing will help identify potential sources of errors or confusion in instructions. Care should be taken to sample a representative portion of the targeted user population, including users with disabilities.

Applicable Guidelines:
Section 255 - 1193.41(i)(2)(e), 1193.41(i)(2)(f)
HFDS - 2.6.3,,,,,,
ISO/IEC 71 - 8.7.2, 8.7.3, 8.7.4