Start with what you know, learn about users with disabilities like you would any other user:
- Do user research, contextual is my favorite
- Get into their head
- Get into their lifestyle
- See how hard it is for them to use interfaces not created with them in mind
So don’t start with design, start storyboarding. Thinking about the experience and not the screens as a first step.
Make with your portfolio website your first project. Say a recruiter was blind, had one arm, short-term memory loss, dyslexic, or is color-blind. Would your portfolio be a great user experience for them?
They don’t need to be a designer with sight, they just need to know if you have the skills the job description asks for. Is your pdf resume or the online resume accessible for them to use a screen reader on and understand?
Say they go to lunch and come back and forget what job position they were currently in the middle of scouting for, does your portfolio site provide enough information and context for them to guess which role they were on?
Does your copy have the proper text-spacing for someone with dyslexia to read with ease? What about your designs and font-size is there enough color contrast for those who are color-blind?
What about your code? A person with one arm will need to use a different keyboard, they’ll need to rely on particular commands to navigate your site. That component looks like a table but isn’t coded as a data table isn’t something they could navigate.
If it looks like something, it should be coded as that actual thing. Remember, form follows function.
You don’t need to start with a project at your workplace to design for accessibility. Teach yourself, be a pioneer too, what works for one interface won’t work for all.
Be a pioneer.
The WCAG guidelines were created by developers and designers who attempted to design and develop for people with disabilities in the past, they submitted their ideas and then it was later curated by a group of individuals as “best practices” things that had been tested. So not everything is covered and it is very much so a discovery process, still.
You as a designer won’t know that something is a problem for a disabled user until you see it first hand.
You could read an article that gives designers a list of rules to follow or developers code to implement but if you fail to understand why these are best practices you will never pinpoint the other potential issues that just haven’t been accounted for by WC3.
Some designs that benefit users with disabilities may not be great for those without disabilities. So when I say design for accessibility, I mean it in the inclusive sense, everyone should have access to a great user experience.
Design something worth writing about. Discover new problems and their solutions. The design community needs to know and the #a11y community needs all the love they can get.
What to chat? Hit me up on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.