Design with an accessibility-first mindset
Designing with an accessibility-first mindset means focusing on people with disabilities as early and often as possible in the design process through rounds of iteration. It requires a design team to be intentional about addressing and prioritizing the needs and preferences of disabled people and other historically marginalized and underserved groups.
Play 1 Checklist
- Set up ideation and/or design thinking workshops to use accessible methods and tools with the intention of including and centering people with disabilities.
- Frame ideation around functionality and accessibility before delight and aesthetics.
- Review all ideas that will be translated into prototypes with an accessibility specialist.
- Include diverse perspectives and experiences in user stories, models, and artifacts.
- Include proactive solutions for issues and concerns raised in research with disabled people (play 2).
- Design for mobile and assistive technologies first before designing for non-assistive needs.
- Design for multiple input modes including speech, keyboard, mouse, touch screen, and more.
- Annotate design artifacts like wireframes and mockups to help developers create accessible solutions. For example, noting heading levels, writing alt text, and identifying ARIA patterns.
- Write content and use images that are inclusive and/or representative of a diverse range of abilities.
- Ensure language is easy to understand at a grade 7 level or below and contains only what someone may need to complete their task.
- Complete an accessibility review with an accessibility specialist ahead of conducting usability testing with real users.
- Design prototypes to be usable by assistive technologies when conducting usability tests. For example, using CodePen to create an HTML prototype.
- Test products with people with disabilities across a range of assistive technologies, devices, and experiences as early and as often as possible.
Play 1 Key questions
- How might we design for accessibility before delight?
- Have we considered users who may not have a mobile device, high-speed internet connection, or reliable access to digital services?
- How might we intentionally frame ideation, prototyping, and testing around historically marginalized and underserved communities?
Play 1 Common barriers
- We can’t test with disabled people because our team is structured around testing in Figma, Sketch, or other inaccessible prototyping tools.
Counterplay: Consider using rapid CodePen prototypes or contextual “think aloud” studies (Nielsen Norman Group).
- As a remote organization, we can’t test with people with slow internet connections.
Counterplay: Consider if you need to have a video of the participant while testing. A phone call or messaging app may be more accessible to some participants. Alternatively, consider collecting feedback asynchronously through a diary study or survey.