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Being part of a company that makes it a priority to develop WCAG-compliant products has evolved me into a better designer. I’m writing this article to share what I’ve learned about accessibility in design and some application points for others to consider.

What is accessibility in design?
Accessibility in design is also known as inclusive design. It refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for EVERYONE — including those that need assistive technology (e.g., screen readers). In other words, accessible designs should allow all humans, to the greatest extent possible, to fully experience the product, device, service, or environment, without the need for an adjustment.

Why is this important?
Humanity has not seen an adaptation to technology like this before. Technology has a serious influence on the lives of billions — especially in areas where it matters: education and healthcare to name a few. In fact, Mahmoud Mohieldin from the World Bank views technology as a leverage to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015. It becomes increasingly important to consider accessibility in design as more people use technology every single day.

This gives UX Designers, like myself, an important mantra to follow: Understand people deeply.

“Why do we need to know about the human mind? Because things are designed to be used by people, and without a deep understanding of people, the designs are apt to be faulty, difficult to use, difficult to understand.”
Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

What is WCAG?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.

WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008, then in 2018, WCAG 2.1 was published as an extension to the original.

What design principles must I consider when designing for accessibility?
There are four basic principles that come from WCAG:

  1. Perceivable — present to users in a way they can recognize and understand

And, here are some other general guidelines that I’ve learned to appreciate:

  1. Use native accessibility features if your product is a mobile application (e.g., VoiceOver on iOS)

I’m still learning a lot about accessibility in design. I’m findings ways to better understand people who have accessibility needs — through user interviews and/or usability testing. I’m also reminded that inclusive design should be the default mode when designing anything — using Sketch plugins and other tools (Lisa Dziuba and UX Collective wrote a comprehensive article on this), and understanding people deeply should be part of the equation, always.

Big shoutout to Enrique Sallent for spearheading the Accessibility initiative at TD Ameritrade. I would not have understood the importance of this subject without him. 🙏🏻

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