Personas with Disabilities

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
The Startup
Published in
7 min readMay 28, 2019


Last edited April 25, 2023

Some people love personas. Some people hate them. But if you have personas, and they are 100 % non-disabled, you are doing everyone a disservice

12 different caricature headshots of people of various sexes, ages, and physical traits

Most articles on personas fall into one of three categories:

  1. Some articles think personas are the best thing since sliced bread
  2. Others think personas should be avoided, or killed, focusing instead on Jobs To Be Done.
  3. The final group thinks personas are 97 % BS. The central theme in this article isn’t that personas are bad, but that only 3% of personas are constructed correctly in a manner that can be successfully leveraged.

Standard Persona — Meet Jane

Jane’s demographics: Female, 32, in a long-term relationship with a five-year-old son. Jane lives 37 miles from her office. Jane’s son goes to kindergarten with an after-school program 5 miles from their house in the other direction from the office.

Jane’s goals and challenges: Jane’s biggest challenge is picking up her son. If she leaves too early, she spends a lot of time in the parking lot with nothing to do. If she leaves too late, she hits a lot of traffic and may incur daycare fines for arriving after the deadline to pick him up. Her goal is to find a way to optimize her time and avoid fines.

Marketing to Jane: Jane would respond well to purchasing software that can be used on either her phone or laptop without a WiFi connection.

OK, that’s all well and good. But does Jane have any disabilities that impact her demographics, goals, challenges, or marketing? Let’s say Jane had a lot of ear infections as a child. The questions the persona owner need to answer to adequately assess the impact her hearing loss has on her demographics, goals, challenges, and marketing include:

  • How deaf is Jane?
  • Is Jane’s hearing loss congenital or acquired?
  • Does Jane use hearing aids or a cochlear implant?
  • If Jane signs, does she use SEE, Cued Speech, ASL, LSM, etc.

While you are thinking about this approach, think about these issues as well:

  1. You likely have more personas than just…



Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
The Startup

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.