UX Checklist Series: Accessible Design

A few months ago, I found myself in a full leg brace following knee surgery. Everyday things I took for granted (like sitting in a chair!) suddenly became very challenging.

There are a handful of particularly stressful moments I remember well, but the moments I remember most are all the small gestures people did to help me—from the receptionist at my doctor’s office who brought out a little footstool so I could comfortably sit down, to the bus driver who pulled up *seamlessly* to a high curb so I could step off with ease—those people made choices, and those choices helped me.

As designers, we have the power to make choices that make our digital experiences better for everyone. When we make accessible design choices, our designs not only become more usable for those with disabilities but more usable for everyone.

What is Accessible Design?

Accessible design means designing to meet the needs of people with disabilities. It’s design that’s inclusive of all users, including users who have physical or cognitive disabilities that are permanent or temporary.

How might a person who experiences color blindness interact with your design differently than a user who experiences hearing loss? Or low vision? What about physical disabilities? Dyslexia? Mobility impairments? Blindness? Users interacting through screen readers or keyboard-only navigation?

Who else’s needs are excluded from the traditional design process? Accessible design takes all of these experiences into consideration, and proactively provides design solutions that are usable for everyone.

What’s the Difference Between Universal Design and Accessible Design?

Universal design, inclusive design, and accessible design are often used interchangeably; so what’s the difference? While these terms all have roots in increasing usability for a wider set of users, there are a few slight nuances to their definitions:

Designing for Accessibility and Inclusion

As UX designers, it’s our role to think about how different users with different needs might interact with our designs. We may think we’re considering a large majority of the population while we design, but we’re often overlooking the one in four adults experiencing disabilities. That’s 25% of the population, which grows to around 40% for adults 65 or older.

As public awareness for accessibility increases, it’s important we start actively thinking beyond our own biases and abilities while we design. Besides just being on the wrong side of morality and ethics, ignoring accessibility in design can negatively affect your brand’s reputation, and even lead to expensive lawsuits and legal battles. Not to mention, it makes it really hard (if not impossible) for 25% of your customers to use your product or service.

The following checklist walks through a list of design tips to help you get started. While this does not (and should not) replace a full accessibility audit, it can be used for some quick wins to make your designs a bit more inclusive.

When we design for accessibility, we improve the experience for everyone.

UX Accessibility Checklist & Guidelines




Accessibility 03 Focus Indicator

Accessibility 04 Form Headers

Images & Video

When it Comes to Accessible Design, We Practice What We Preach

While putting this checklist together, we did a quick accessibility audit on our own site. And as you may have noticed, there are some issues right on our very own homepage:

Accessibility 05 Seer Issues

As with any project, design and development updates require time and resources. You’ll need buy-in from your leadership, but it doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Here are the steps we plan to take to address our own accessibility issues:

  1. Identify the problem: Use a checklist like the one above audit your site and document your known issues. Doing this can help you understand the level of effort needed to fix the issues.
  2. Educate through Empathy: Advocate for accessibility and explain why this matters to your team! Build empathy for your users with the necessary stakeholders. Fortunately for us, empathy is already at the heart of Seer’s values.
  3. Log issues and treat them like bugs: How would your team go about addressing other bugs on your website? Accessibility issues are usability bugs at their very core. People can’t read your button labels? That’s a critical usability issue! Treat it like one and prioritize accordingly.
  4. Create a plan for on-going optimizations: Websites are living things with many moving parts, and scheduling periodic accessibility audits can help you keep tabs on any new issues. Better yet, as awareness for accessibility grows on your team, use that momentum to make accessibility a part of your design process from the very start.

Note: The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice with respect to ADA-compliance or otherwise, and should not be acted upon as such.

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