Graphic explaining high level actions designers can take to address social sustainability with their work

Accessibility is a much-neglected part of “sustainable”​ communication design

A couple of weeks ago I attended virtually an Accessibility Conference, AXE-Con, put on by the smart people behind Axe-tools, Deque Systems, Inc. As someone who is intrinsically motivated to be inclusive, I’d really only seriously begun to think of accessibility as a principle of sustainable communication design when we worked on this infographic for the GDC, a couple of years ago. Like many of you, I default to considering environmental aspects of sustainability but inclusivity and accessibility have been top of mind these days.

I am loving how it feels to advocate for the end-user and broaden the reach of our communications by employing a higher-standard for design. I’m most definitely still very much on the learning curve (our website doesn’t score well, full disclaimer…! A redesign is in the works…) but just like understanding user experience, once you learn a little, you can’t un-see the challenge!

Some takeaways from the accessibility conference, Axe-Con, I think other designers might be interested in:

  1. Accessible design is GOOD design. Accessibility includes access to more users, and often underrepresented users, but everyone will benefit from the clarity and principles activated.
  2. Good content strategy + clear design gets you more than halfway there. Using Headlines in order? Clear, logical labels? Seems simple but these details can be the difference to a successful screen-reading user experience.
  3. Build collaboration between designer/developer early and often and document your logic to make it easier to share throughout the process.
  4. Colour changes are by and far easiest to solve for. Design with a colour contrast minimum of 4.5:1 – ideally higher. Usually, I use https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/ to test colours during the design process this but an awesome (new to me) tool worth checking out: https://colorable.jxnblk.com
  5. Though colour is a quick fix in some cases, it’s important colour isn’t the only indicator of an action/link/change.
  6. Use the AXE chrome extension via dev tools > inspect to learn more about how you can improve
  7. I love checklists and this one from A11y Project is awesome. It’s a LOT easier to read/use than the official web accessibility guidelines W3.org.

It is our social responsibility to design for accessibility — I am committed to learning more. Do you have any favourite tools that help you design better with accessibility in mind? Please do share!

Note: The graphic above is part of an infographic on Sustainable Communication Design we collaborated on with Illustrator Sebastian Abboud and the GDC Sustainability Committee.