Designing for Accessibility: An Open Door

Lauren Friedman
4 min readApr 16, 2021


To design for accessibility is to subscribe to the radically empathetic notion that access is a universal right for all. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is radical within design because it upends the notion of designers as “experts.”

Instead, designing for accessibility means constantly shifting outside of your individual experience, through iterative testing and agile design methods, to understand the needs of all users, regardless of ability. By committing to these human-centered design values, we not only benefit our businesses, but we can contribute to a greater good by ensuring access for all.

Accessibility goals can be met throughout every point of the double diamond design process. This method, which is not static, bakes accessibility considerations into every step and builds upon design learning continuously.


In the discovery portion of the double diamond, when teams are seeking to understand a problem, accessibility can be considered during:

  • user interviews to understand the problem space,
  • usability tests on a preexisting product,
  • research synthesis and persona creation.

Design usability tests that help your team understand the accessibility of your current designs, and gather a diverse array of users from different backgrounds and abilities, allowing your team to understand why the customer is using your product and how they use it. In doing so, your team can quickly flag limiting design considerations, such as proper contrast on buttons for folks with color blindness or ensuring that your site is fully accessible by keyboard for those with motor differences.

After gathering information during this discovery cycle, make accessibility considerations an integral part of the development of your persona during research synthesis. Bring the entire team into this research cycle so that empathy is developed for the users and the problems they face.


During the define stage of the double diamond, it is imperative that when understanding the problem, we must be empathetic. As an added benefit, solving for some problems may help us solve for others simultaneously. For instance, auto-generated captions on Instagram not only helps those with hearing differences but also users who are not able to use the sound feature at the moment.

Screenshots of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking on her Instagram stories with captions shown.


Remember, when considering universal accessibility, you’re not just designing for people with disabilities. Inclusive accessibility includes considering:

  • those with low or no literacy,
  • poor internet access,
  • old technology,
  • new or infrequent users,
  • and mobile users.


By the time development occurs in the double diamond, standards should already have been set early on in the design process. Early prototypes help the development team provide basic accessibility at the earliest stages. Even before designing, technical accessibility can be firmed up in the code of a prototype for assistive technology, such as voice-activated readers.

By designing your work in small sprints, working in small batches can help you challenge your assumptions and design and validate your decisions as you go.

Here is a braille keyboard, a great example of assistive technology.
Here is a braille keyboard, a great example of assistive technology.


Deliver, the fourth quadrant of the double diamond is ultimately when the product is pushed out to market. When preparing for this stage, follow the best practices set forth by the Web Accessibility Guidelines.

During this entire agile development cycle of the double diamond, the process is completely iterative, thus there is no “final” stage; so it’s important to continue to test, apply learning, and evolve or pivot based on your findings.

Remember, despite the nitty-gritty of these accessibility guidelines, your product must be delightful for users to want to use it in the first place, so don’t lose sight of building joy into your designs. Accessible design should be celebrated, not enforced, and it’s a team responsibility to make it a priority.

Most importantly, remember to listen. Radical empathy demands active listening skills which help you, as a designer, step outside of your own biases and assumptions. In doing so, you become a better designer. You will increase your user’s satisfaction, deliver on business goals, and open the door wider for all.

Research for this article came from these sources:

  1. 7 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about Accessibility
  2. Designing for accessibility is not that hard | by Pablo Stanley
  3. Accessibility guidelines for UX Designers | by Avinash Kaur
  4. Accessibility Principles | Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) | W3C

About the author:

Lauren Friedman is a product designer, illustrator, and bestselling author of the “50 Ways to Wear” series.



Lauren Friedman

I am a UX writer and designer, author, and illustrator, who is passionate about creating radically empathetic spaces.