Don't make accessibility an afterthought: 5 reasons to consider accessibility at the design stage

The importance of considering accessibility at the design stage

Aug 1, 2023



min read

A computer with a refreshable braille display.

Around 1.85 billion people worldwide are living with one or more disabilities, emphasising the need for inclusive interfaces and technology. Accessibility enables those with disabilities to understand, navigate, and interact with our products and services.

We all want our teams to design and build accessible products, but sometimes this can be easier said than done. I’ve worked on so many projects where accessibility has been considered an afterthought, leading to costly development retrofits further down the line. For larger teams with dedicated resources, accessibility might be something that's already built into your process. However, for smaller teams, it can be much more difficult to manage alongside the day-to-day.

For a long time, I believed that as long as design teams created designs that were visually accessible, then they could be handed over to development teams who would be responsible for building in all other aspects of accessibility.  I've recently realised that we can be doing so much more than this in the design stage ahead of the development handover to enhance the workflow of our team.

We should be approaching a project thinking of accessibility as another one of our design challenges, with two key considerations. Firstly, we should focus on making our UI designs visually accessible. For example, considering typography sizes, colour contrasts, and touch targets. Secondly, we should determine the necessary assets to provide to our development teams to help them build out accessible code that works for those using assistive technologies. This second step is often overlooked in the design stage but it can be extremely impactful, creating many efficiencies. If you'd like to learn more about the process of how to do this, please go to Designing for assistive technologies: A step-by-step guide

Here are 5 reasons that accessibility should be considered upstream at the start of a project and in the design stage:

  1. Improved User Experience: Considering accessibility from the start makes teams more thoughtful as to how features are designed, encouraging creativity and innovative solutions that are likely to enhance the product experience for all types of users.
  2. Saves time and cost: Retrofitting accessibility once features have already been developed or after the product is launched can be much more expensive and time-consuming. By identifying and incorporating accessibility requirements early on, teams can save on resources and reduce the need for extensive rework.
  3. Future scalability: Designing for accessibility sets a strong foundation for future design iterations and development updates. If accessibility is built into the product from the start, it becomes easier to maintain and improve accessibility over time.
  4. Positive brand image: If your product is fully accessible, you will meet accessibility legal and regulatory compliance. It gives your team something to shout about, and customers are likely to value your business if you are inclusive, increasing your brand image and reputation.
  5. Communication and culture: If accessibility is integrated into your team's process, it becomes a fundamental part of how all future projects are approached. It opens up communication and awareness of accessibility principles within the team, improving company culture.

Considering accessibility in the design stage can result in advantages for both your team and the users of your product or service. It creates time and cost efficiencies, future-proofs your product, and helps inclusivity become a fundamental part of your team's process. Building an accessible product from the outset improves the user experience, promoting a positive brand image and increased customer loyalty.

the author

Nicolle Moore

Sr. UX Designer

Nicolle is a UX Designer who loves finding creative and practical solutions to solve users problems. She has a background in helping businesses build and launch products from the ground up across multiple industry sectors. She follows a user centric approach, and aims to design seamless experiences that result in positive business outcomes.