Live from Big Design: Accessibility is Not Enough

Accessibility is Not Enough, by Bobby Brooks and Jessica Looney

big-design-logo-300x126The speakers both work with Knowbility, a web accessibility nonprofit. They’re going to do something more in-depth than a 101. Instead, going over a few common accessibility challenges, and then ways to validate and test.

What is an accessible website?

One that people can use regardless of abilities/disabilities. Some people feel it’s about checking in on guidelines at the end. But the spirit is more about incorporating accessibility from the beginning, not tacking on a ramp at the end.

For example, one common thing in brand guidelines is to say “these are our colors.” But if those aren’t accessible (not enough contrast) we need to take a step back and consider ways to accomplish accessibility.

Four common challenges

Keyboard Accessible

There are lots of reasons people may not use their mouse. Mouse could be broken, person could have a sprained wrist, or they could have a permanent paralysis. Regardless of reason, or even if it’s just a preference for using the keyboard over the mouse, we should be providing sites that are keyboard accessible. Dropdown menus need to be specially coded, for exampls.

Clear Layout and Design

If the design is reliant on Styles to show them in the right order, then it won’t appear correctly for screenreader users. Screenreaders also have shortcuts to just listen to links, or to headers, for example. It’s so that they can skim the page. That means heading styles are very important.

Video Caption

YouTube can add captions via an algorithm. It’s a small thing, but it makes a huge difference. (As was made obvious during this presentation, when the sound didn’t work!)

Color and Contrast

As we get older, color and contrast become more important. We also need to consider what the lighting situation might be, since that impacts color and contrast as well. Once design choices have been made to accommodate, it’s time to test and validate!

Test and Validate

  1. Set a baseline early on for what we want accessibility to meet
  2. Evaluate early and often
  3. Use web accessibility tools
  4. Test with real people

Some tools for testing:


A portal from Knowability to connect businesses to users with disabilities, for easy testing. Also shows a report summary after the fact.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, where she helps healthcare, finance, and educational organizations communicate with their audiences. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *