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Cognitive accessibility for developer portals


Content Editor & Writer
Apr 17, 2023

From 2025, companies within the EU Member States have to ensure that their newly marketed products and services covered by the European Accessibility Act (EAA) are accessible.

In this article, we introduce how limitations in information processing capabilities influence the way one can access and consume information. The ultimate goal is to make developer portals inclusive for everyone, including people with permanent or temporary impairments and people who have non-typical information processing modes, preferences or opportunities. The new rules open up ways for everyone who has to face barriers during their daily life. Furthermore, these directives establish requirements that provide an inclusive design for a better and frictionless user experience. The user experience, that takes into account permanent limitations, can be crucial for developer portals and API programs as well.

Web Accessibility directives in the EU

In the EU, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights provides the basis for accessibility legislation. The European Union set up a legal framework, the Web Accessibility Directive (WAD), which focuses on the public sector. The European Accessibility Act that follows a commitment on accessibility made by the EU and all Member States upon ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities complements the Web Accessibility Directive and offers solutions to the private sector and a wider range of websites, and applications. These laws apply to all EU countries, harmonize standards and make the web more accessible for everyone.


Visual representation of the mentioned directives and their relationships. This image was made in Miro.
Visual representation of the mentioned directives and their relationships. This image was made in Miro.

The European Accessibility Act will be beneficial for both businesses and users’ side:

  • Businesses will have common rules regarding accessibility, cross-border trading will be simpler, and the act will offer a wider range of markets for accessible products and services.
  • Users will find more accessible products in the market, the prices will be more competitive, and fewer barriers will exist.

If web contents meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ (WCAG) expectations, they will cover the basic technical requirements. Important to highlight, that the WCAG does not cover all of the legal requirements, the Harmonised European Standard EN 301 549 provides the full scope. If companies follow the guidelines, the business will gain a broader range of audiences, as the developer portal and API program will be accessible to everyone.

Cognitive disability and situational limitations

How we perceive things, in other words our cognition, depends on many internal (e.g. physical impairments, psychological state) and external (e.g. noisy background, visibility) factors. Many of these factors are only temporal or spatial. So much can affect how we understand—can we even understand?—the given information.

For example, a person who has hardships of hearing could not easily understand a video which only has audio, and someone in a loud place has a similar issue (we can call the latter a situational limitation). If we foresee such limitations, we can offer alternatives (e.g. caption, transcript, sign language interpreter in the video) so none of the mentioned persons will be excluded, regardless of the cause of their limitation. They can choose what fits their needs the best.

Cognitive disability/Permanent limitation

We can talk about cognitive, learning and neurological disabilities (or permanent limitations) when neurodiversity and neurological disorders occur. We can also mention the special state when someone has behavioral and mental health impairments that are not caused by neurological reasons. As highlights, ‘they may affect any part of the nervous system and impact how well people hear, move, see, speak, and understand information. Cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities do not necessarily affect the intelligence of a person.’

Situational limitation

Situational limitations occur when someone faces a barrier in their environment which prevents them from digesting information, and in turn influences their cognitive capabilities. As the research report from Funka highlighted, ‘cognitive functions emerge in a specific context, which means that there is no such thing as a neutral human being who passively observes the environment without being influenced by it.’ (Funka research, p. 26)

Mental capabilities ‘vary from person to person, but for all of us there are limits on how much information the brain can take in and process at the same time. For example, research from cognitive psychology shows that the short-term memory can only hold 7 elements (plus or minus 2) at the same time’ (Funka research, p. 27). We all have our limits which makes it harder to perceive and process the given information. Information overload, exhaustion, and stress—as external factors—significantly impact our mental functions regardless of whether we have any disabilities.

How does it translate to developer portals?

Imagine a developer who has hardships with the English language, or one who is stressed due to a deadline. They won’t waste time on complicated technical documentation that:

  • uses long and complicated sentences,
  • instead of a logical structure has only a huge wall of text,
  • does not use clear and concise headers or other formattings.

These barriers will increase the developer’s troubles. The same goes for other user personas and content types. These points highlight that web accessibility influences more people than it first seems evident, there are no neutral users who can’t have any difficulties. We benefit from an approach that not only focuses on including people with disabilities but also on the spectrum of varying needs that is apparent in the population.

In our two previous articles, we introduced a few guidelines which can help to make the content accessible.

Digital Accessibility for Developer Portals: Interested in checking out part one of this series? In the previous article, we answer the question what is digital accessibility and why it is important for developer portals.


Designing Developer Portals for Digital Accessibility Design an accessible—UX-first—devportal that supports your activities and enhances your brand image. This article outlines common sense and industry standards for the design and content of your devportal.


Further benefits and possibilities

We have already listed some examples of the benefits of the upcoming changes, but we would like to mention several other advantages from a business perspective.

Following the guidelines can help to:

  • promote innovation,
  • improve brand equity,
  • reduce legal risks (from 2025, the newly marketed products and services covered by the Act have to be accessible), and
  • extend the market reach.

We encourage everyone to use the European Accessibility Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. If you need help, get in touch with us. Pronovix’ UX consulting could be an entry point for better understanding your users. On the other hand, techwriters at Pronovix create clear and concise documentation using plain English, their documentations avoid cognitive overload. 

If you seek specialized assistance with your developer portal and want to know how you could make your portal more accessible, talk with us.


As we highlighted, many factors influence our cognition: someone can experience difficulties with reading or unexpected external elements can make it hard to understand a given text. Either way, keeping in mind the users’ varying needs and creating an accessible environment for them, opens new ways to be more inclusive.



All Pronovix publications are the fruit of a team effort, enabled by the research and collective knowledge of the entire Pronovix team. Our ideas and experiences are greatly shaped by our clients and the communities we participate in.

Klaudia is a Digital Content Writer and Editor for Pronovix' Marketing and Content Strategy Team. She conducts research into developer portals and developer experience and writes articles on products, services, and events. She also works on case studies. In addition. she edits the podcast episodes. Klaudia is also working towards a PhD in literary studies focused on video games. In her free time, she practices photography and reads.


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