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Four Things I’ve Learned About Design in Accessibility

Posted by: Emily Jenkins
on 24, Nov 2021
from Halifax, Nova Scotia

Around 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability. This means for graphic designers like me, not putting accessibility at the forefront of our designs means a large percentage of the population can’t use, experience, or benefit from the content we create.

Unfortunately, accessibility in design is not given a priority in design school coursework. This norm needs to change. As it is now, we’re often left learning about the limitations of not designing for accessibility and how to navigate those challenges as we enter the workforce. This can seem daunting, but creating inclusive and accessible content should be a goal of all designers.

Here are four things I’ve learned about designing for accessibility:

It’s not a person’s disability that causes them issues experiencing content; poor design does that.

As designers, it is our responsibility to ensure the content we create is accessible to everyone. Therefore, we need to take accessibility into consideration from the start and be actively asking ourselves, “How might this design be viewed or interpreted by a person with a disability?”

If it’s a departure from how a non-disabled person would experience it, the design needs to change.

“Good accessible design happens when you view your design from many different perspectives.”

This quote from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses has always stood out to me because it highlights the need to consider the many different forms of disabilities people experience. We need to approach our designs through many different lenses: someone with a permanent disability, a temporary disability, a situational disability, various forms of physical disabilities vs cognitive disabilities, etc. Designing for accessibility is not one size fits all.

Usability is Accessibility

To put it simply, if our designs are not usable by everyone, they aren’t accessible. Therefore, when designing for accessibility, how our designs will be navigated by a user, e-readers, etc., need to be considered, just as much as visual accessibility standards like colour contrast, font sizes and white space.

Accessibility does not hinder innovation in our designs, but rather, it improves designs.

It is easy to assume that designing for accessibility means designing within a specific framework that hinders creativity, but it’s the opposite! Instead, designing for accessibility requires us to think outside the box to create content for everyone while still conveying a brand’s unique voice, telling a unique story, etc.

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