My Favorite Resources for Learning Inclusive Design and Accessible Design
At Center Centre, the UX design school where I’m a faculty member, I get to review many resources on inclusivity and accessible design.
I collect the best resources I find and review them with my team. Then, the team and I apply what we learn from those resources to our curriculum. Over time, our curriculum grows stronger because it contains more competencies around inclusive design and accessibility.
Inclusive Design vs. Accessibility: What’s the Difference?
It took me a while to understand the difference between inclusive design and accessibility. After researching these terms, I now see them as two sides of the same coin:
- Inclusive Design is the principle of designing for people who have a diversity of needs, experiences, and backgrounds.
- Accessibility is the measurable implementation of inclusive design.
You apply inclusive design during each stage of the design process. For example, while writing content for a project, you and your team will raise questions like, “Could someone with a cognitive impairment understand this content?”
You implement accessible content through the use of specific design techniques. For example, to make sure someone with a cognitive impairment can understand your content, you’ll write content using plain language. Then, you’ll conduct usability tests on that content with users who have cognitive limitations. If these users don’t understand the content, you’ll refine the content, then test it again.
My Favorite Resources
Below are some of my favorite resources on inclusivity and accessibility. These resources have been invaluable to us at Center Centre as we weave inclusivity and accessibility throughout our courses. I’m confident you’ll find these resources useful for your design practice, too.
Laura Kalbag’s book is one of my favorite accessibility resources. Throughout the book, Laura gives you a thorough overview of accessible design, and she explains how to create accessible designs during each stage of a design project. As her book explains, accessibility is not something we consider once during a project, then move on. It needs to be a consistent part of the design process.
Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery’s book is another excellent read about inclusive design and accessibility. The book covers a broad range of accessibility — everything from cognitive limitations to visual impairments and beyond. The book provides tools you can either use as-is or customize to fit your team’s needs.
In this book, Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher explain how our users are not always in a relaxed and happy state. Eric and Sara show you how to design for stress cases — situations where users are in a heightened state of stress or panic. The authors also challenge you to consider the outcomes of design decisions that seem harmless but can have a detrimental effect on users — even something as simple as asking users to indicate their gender on a form.
Shawn Lawton Henry generously published this book for free online. You can read it as a series of web pages. While the book was published over ten years ago, the principles are still relevant to how we design today. This book was one of the first resources I came across that encouraged UX designers to include people with disabilities in user research.
In this article, Pablo Stanley gives an excellent overview of why accessible design is critical and how to infuse it into your process. As Pablo says in the article, “Designing a product from scratch that meets the requirements for accessibility doesn’t add extra features or content; therefore there shouldn’t be additional cost and effort.”
Steven Lambert’s article takes a deep dive into the breadth of designing for inclusivity and accessibility. The author uses the approach of lenses to explain how you can design for a diversity of needs throughout a design project.
A great way to determine if your design is appropriate for someone on the autism spectrum is to conduct user research with people who have autism. Yet very few UX researchers include people with autism in their research. In this article, Zsombor Varnagy-Toth explains how to conduct usability tests with people on the spectrum and what to expect in the process.
Angela Colter explains how to write simple content that’s easy to read and understand. While simple, plain language helps users with cognitive limitations and users who are not are fluent in English, it also helps everyone. Even “advanced readers” appreciate content they can understand quickly. And as Angela explains in the article, writing in plain language is not dumbing down your content.
Think Like an Accessible UX Researcher Part 3: Five Common Mistakes in Usability Testing and How to Avoid Them
In this article, David Sloan explains how conducting user research with people with disabilities is a great way to learn from a historically neglected audience. While David’s article focuses on usability testing with people who use screen readers, you can apply these concepts to conducting research with people who have a range of impairments.
Color in our designs can affect users in many ways. A Stephanie Walter explains in this article, some users may be color blind, some may be visually impaired, and some may be using our designs in environments we didn’t consider. Stephanie explains how we can apply color in inclusive ways that help users rather than hinder them.
It’s important to make our designs inclusive and accessible. We also need our design events to be inclusive and accessible to attendees. In this article, Mikey Ilagan explains how to organize design and technology events that are accessible. In the article, he addresses the question, “Would the same people we’re hoping to serve with our technology feel welcome and included at our events?”
A11y Rules is a fantastic podcast. It’s one of the few podcasts out there that focuses on inclusivity and accessible design. The host, Nicolas Steenhout, is an accessibility consultant who helps companies make their products better for everyone. I learn something new from every interview he conducts on the podcast.
After signing up for this email list, you’ll receive a fantastic email once a week. Curated by David A. Kennedy, each email provides links to articles, books, podcasts, and other resources about accessibility. This is one email list you don’t want to miss. I’ve discovered many good resources through this list. David graciously does the hard work for you by scouring the web for fresh content about accessibility, then sharing it each week.
Microsoft has done great work around inclusive design, and they share much of their knowledge in this manual. As this resource explains, by designing for someone with a permanent disability, someone with a situational limitation can also benefit. One of my favorite parts of the manual is the Persona Spectrum. I find it essential for understanding the nuances of disabilities and limitations.
Also from Microsoft, this resource provides a list of activities you can use at your organization to infuse inclusivity into your design process. Like the manual above, this resource also includes the Persona Spectrum. The spectrum displays the senses touch, see, hear, and speak against an axis of permanent, temporary, and situational disabilities. It’s a great tool for understanding the array of user needs when it comes to accessibility.
Go Forth and Be Inclusive
I hope you find these resources as useful as I have at Center Centre. This list includes just a handful of the books, articles, podcasts, and other resources I’ve used.
Do you know of any additional resources that aren’t on this list? Please share them in the comments.
Thanks to Mikey Ilagan for his input on this article.