What You Need to Know About Accessibility & Usability in Design

By UsableNet on Nov 16, 2021
Topics: Web Accessibility, UsableNet


There’s so much to consider regarding accessibility when you’re creating a digital experience, whether that’s a mobile app or a brand website.

The term “disability” includes any impairments, activity limitations, or participation restrictions that would keep someone from being able to engage properly in a digital experience.

If you don’t have closed captions for your onboarding videos, people who are deaf or hard of hearing are missing vital information. And if you have a Contact Form that doesn’t allow for keyboard-only navigation and submission, someone with motor disabilities may not be able to get in touch with your brand.

There are four core groups of disabilities that organizations must always account for when considering accessibility and usability in design. Let’s look at each.


Visual Impairments

Visual impairments include any impact on sight. It covers the following:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Farsightedness
  • Astigmatism
  • Color blindness
  • Eyesight loss (which can come from age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy)

In order to accommodate all users with visual impairments, your design team will need to account for:

  • Typography that’s easy to read
  • Use of color, including having text contrast enough from the background that it’s easy to makeout
  • Declaring change on the page
  • Layouts that are clean and easy to navigate
  • Keyboard access and control
  • Screen-reader friendly (meaning on-page text and alt-text instead of graphics containing text)

Auditory Impairments

Auditory impairments cover conditions that result in any degree of loss of hearing. This can include conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or complete deafness.

These are the design accommodations you’ll want to keep in mind for your hard-of-hearing users:

  • Support for alternative means to communicate, including live chat or email instead of calling
  • Provide alternative ways to access audio and video content, including transcriptions, subtitles, and captions

Keep in mind that lawsuits pertaining to videos have increased recently, so prioritizing adding captions and transcripts to video and audio files is crucial.

Motor Impairments

Motor impairments include any disability that impact coordination or motor control. This may include Cerebral palsy, neural-tube defects, muscle and joint conditions, neurologic conditions, physical labor injuries, and traumatic brain or spine injuries.

Motor impairments aren’t always considered by design teams, but they should be. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Designs should be flexible and easy to use with all assistive technologies
  • Alternative ways to interact will be useful, including allowing dictation tools to fill out forms instead of needing someone to type
  • Mechanisms within the user interface should support motor impairments
  • Input/output devices and gesture-centered tech will be essential

Cognitive Impairments

Cognitive impairments can include motor, attention, problem-solving, text processing, math processing, visual processing, literacy, and learning disabilities. It can also include vestibular disorders and seizures.

This is unfortunately another area that many UX and design teams forget to account for, but you don’t want to miss it.

To create accessible experiences for users with cognitive impairments, remember the following:

  • Avoid cluttered layouts
  • Avoid flashing, overwhelming elements
  • Apply good, simple typography
  • Use iconography to help strengthen your points
  • Apply clear and simple language; skip out on esoteric language unless absolute needed

Final Thoughts

Design teams have a lot on their plate; creating solid experiences even for fully able-bodied users isn’t always the simplest task.

Because accessibility issues should be at the core of what you do, however, it’s easier to create an accessible-first foundation and build from there.

This prevents your team from needing to recreate or redevelop entire sections of your app or site because of an accidental blind spot, and it’s easier to add on additional accessibility features in the future as needed.

Need help getting your design teams up to speed with accessibility best practices? We can help. We offer expert training for design teams. Learn more here.



Founded in 2000, UsableNet created some of the first tools and platforms to make websites accessible and usable for all people. Starting out, we worked with government agencies as well as universities and corporations. Today, accessibility has become important to almost all companies. We provide accessibility solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, small and medium enterprises, government, and education organizations across industries including retail, travel, hospitality, food services, automotive, financial services, and healthcare.

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