Accessibility for Designers and User Experience (UX) Researchers

“Nothing about us, without us.” — Michael Masutha, People’s Assembly


Inclusive products and services are the results of inclusive design processes and collaborations. 

Accessibility is not a special requirement but a critical element of good design. When you improve the online experience for people with disabilities, you improve usability for everyone including people with low literacy skills and people who speak English as a foreign language.

Accessibility and inclusivity are indivisible and critical elements of good design. Consider the native language, literacy, digital literacy, and digital access of your users as well as potential visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities.

Your Responsibilities

  • Advocate for people with disabilities throughout the product development cycle.
  • Build diverse project teams; including people with disabilities and a wide range of experiences and viewpoints.
  • Engage people with disabilities in UX research and design early and meaningfully.
  • Include costs for compensating research participants into projects and advocate for a compensation budget when there is none.
  • Use only accessible tools when facilitating UX activities and workshops. Ask in advance if participants require accessibility accommodations.
  • Create accessible UX artifacts, documentation, and presentations.
  • Inform your team about the experience of using your product or service with assistive technology.
  • Include accessibility considerations in your personas, user archetypes, or user stories.
  • Commit to learning from people with disabilities and informing yourself about the assistive technologies and innovations that can improve the ability to access state services and resources.
  • Understand the State Accessibility Technical Standards and best practices for meeting compliance guidelines for all digital content you are producing.

What You Can Do

Designing for Disabilities

Auditory, W3C
To use the Web effectively, people with auditory disabilities often rely on:

  • Transcripts and captions of audio content, including audio-only content and audio tracks in multimedia;
  • Media players that display captions and provide options to adjust the text size and colors of captions;
  • Options to stop, pause, and adjust the volume of audio content (independently of the system volume);
  • High-quality foreground audio that is clearly distinguishable from any background noise.

Cognitive, learning, and neurological, W3C
Depending on the individual needs, people with cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities often rely on:

  • Clearly structured content that facilitates overview and orientation;
  • Consistent labeling of forms, buttons, and other content parts;
  • Predictable link targets, functionality, and overall interaction;
  • Different ways of navigating websites, such as hierarchical menu and search;
  • Options to suppress blinking, flickering, flashing, and otherwise distracting content;
  • Simpler text that is supplemented by images, graphs, and other illustrations;

Physical, W3C
To use the Web, people with physical disabilities often use specialized hardware and software such as:

  • Ergonomic or specially designed keyboard or mouse;
  • Head pointer, mouth stick, and other aids to help with typing;
  • On-screen keyboard with trackball, joysticks, or other pointing devices;
  • Switches operated by foot, shoulder, sip-and-puff, or other movements;
  • Voice recognition, eye tracking, and other approaches for hands-free interaction.

Speech, W3C

  • People with speech disabilities encounter barriers with voice-based services, such as automated web-based hotlines and web applications that are operated using voice commands. 
  • To use services that rely on voice, people with speech disabilities need alternative modes of interaction such as a text-based chat to interact with hotline representatives and keyboard commands to operate web applications. 
  • Also, websites that provide telephone numbers as the only means of communicating with an organization pose barriers for people with speech disabilities. Alternative means of communication include e-mail and feedback forms.

Visual, W3C
People with visual disabilities typically rely on changing the presentation of web content into forms that are more usable for their particular needs. For example by:

  • Enlarging or reducing text size and images;
  • Customizing settings for fonts, colors, and spacing;
  • Listening to text-to-speech synthesis of the content;
  • Listening to audio descriptions of video in multimedia;
  • Reading text using refreshable Braille.

Resources for State of Colorado Agencies

Siteimprove: Siteimprove’s software helps to improve State website usability and accessibility by automating the process of finding errors and problems. Siteimprove alone will not make websites accessible but is part of a holistic approach to managing web services.

For questions about using Siteimprove, please contact the Technology Accessibility Program at OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us.

Don't have access to Siteimprove? Use these free browser extensions: