Accessible design tips for a competitive edge: AbilityNet Live!

Accessible design does not mean difficult design.

In this webinar, which took place on 14 July 2020, our expert panellists shared their experiences of designing with accessibility in mind, describing success stories and explaining how establishing accessibility best practices can put you at a competitive advantage, particularly as Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of accessible design for meeting the needs of diverse users.

Watch the webinar recording (available soon) to learn from expert speakers from Sony Europe, MoneySupermarket and AbilityNet about key aspects of accessible design, including:

  • Top tips for accessible design
  • Designing for older people and disabled people
  • Common accessibility issues that can only be fixed by inclusive design
  • Career prospects for those with accessible design credentials

 Laptop showing text reading the words "I design and develop experiences that make people's lives simple"


About our speakers

Sarah Zama – Sony Europe 

Sarah is currently the UX, Design and Videography Manager at Pro.Sony & the Global Accessibility ‘go to’ person. The accessibility add-on is as a result of her time working in digital production for more than 12 years at Living Paintings and Guide Dogs, both charities in the sight loss sector.

Emily Cheshire - Moneysupermarket 

Emily is a UX Designer at Moneysupermarket Group. Determined to have an ethical impact on the world, Emily stepped into UX resolved to create inclusive products that better users' lives. Emily’s dedication to building inclusivity was recognised internally with the Inclusion Icon award in 2019.  Since then she’s been leading and participating in a number of accessibility-focused projects at Moneysupermarket Group.

Alice Taylor - AbilityNet

Alice joined AbilityNet after spending five years working as a Front End Developer in a range of digital agencies. As a senior accessibility consultant in our Accessibility Services Team, Alice provides in-depth auditing of web/mobile websites and applications, and carries out design, wireframe and specialist assistive technology reviews, for a wide range of clients across the public and private sectors.

Who will benefit from this webinar?

This webinar is for web designers, people in digital content and UX roles and those working in accessibility roles.

The session may also be of interest to designers moving into working within digital services and products.

The webinar lasted one hour and included questions and answers from attendees. For additional information read answers to frequently asked questions about AbilityNet webinars.

Webinar recording, slide deck and transcript

A captioned recording of the live webinar is available via YouTube and pasted below, along with a transcript. You can view and download the slide deck below that was used during the webinar. Q&A follow up from the webinar is also included below.

Useful Links mentioned in the webinar

Your questions answered

This webinar generated lots of questions, which we weren't able to answer all of during the live session. So, the panel members have offered their responses to the remaining queries from the webinar Q&A section below:

What are the most important types of assistive tech for mobile and web that you'd recommend a team designing & creating software become familiar with, to upskill themselves?

For a large web agency who wants to be better and do more of this in house, do you have any guidance for some software to help us?

Emily Cheshire: To really understand how to design inclusively for all forms of accessibility, it’s best you practice using a wide range of assistive tech so that your experience representative of different conditions and impairments. Rather than diving straight in trying to use every type of text-to-speech software (for example, a screen reader), start out with just one so you can do the same for text-to-content and other assistive tech and get a feel for them all. Over time you can try out alternatives because not all screen readers, magnifiers, speech recognition software, and so on, act in the exact same way and every user will have their own preference.
Here are some you could try:

  • Screen readers - Voiceover is built into Mac/iOS, TalkBack is built into Android, or NVDA is available for free on Windows.
  • Screen magnifiers – ZoomText and SuperNova are generally very popular and both paid for, but SuperNova has a free trial period. You can also set mobile devices to have enlarged text.  
  • Speech recognition – I’ve found Dragon Naturally Speaking to be the most popular software with users, however there is a cost to it; a free alternative is the extension Lipsurf. Though not technically assistive tech, it’s worth mentioning that Alexa is a great tool for speech recognition, and both Google and Apple have built-in dictation software on their mobile devices.
  • Literacy support – Read&Write by TextHelp, Dragon Dictate, and Claro which is often considered a screen reader but also has the capability to tint the screen making websites easier to read. Grammarly is also a useful tool for some dyslexic users – and it’s free.
  • Don’t forget, some people with less severe impairments may choose to make other adjustments, rather than assistive technology. For example, people with dyslexia are often keen to use a ‘dark mode’ version of your site. If your site doesn’t have dark mode, try using some sites that do like YouTube to assess it’s readability.

Also, keep in mind that assistive technologies are not only for internet use. Assistive tech is equipment intended to alleviate or compensate for an impairment or condition which means it covers a broad range of assistive, for example a walking stick; a person who needs to use a walking stick could struggle to use a mobile version of your site if they only have one hand available to do so and you haven’t designed or built the site with that in mind.
If you want to take upskilling your team a little bit further, then try to build empathy and awareness around accessibility within your team so it becomes natural for them to consider accessibility in each stage of your process. A ‘quick and dirty’ way to do this if you can’t run accessibility user testing, is to try out some simulation extensions and apps too. Sarah mentioned the Funkify extension in the webinar which is good for dyslexia, but also simulates a whole other range of conditions. NoCoffee is another good extension for visual impairments; if you’d rather try out some apps then you could try Via Opta for eye conditions, or Chromatic Vision for colour deficiency. If you have a virtual reality (VR) headset or VR cardbox box you could insert the phone and create a much more immersive experience!

How do I frame the accessibility related work needed to my developer to make sure the work is done right?

Sarah Zama: It all depends on how much experience they have on making websites accessible and if you are fully aware of the work that needs to be done. The WCAG guidelines give complete oversight of what would be required from a technical perspective for each element.

If they haven’t had much experience and you are starting with the basics such as Heading tags then demo’ing certain tools such as Insights for Web to share where simple changes need to be made, explain why and provide them with some examples of websites that do it well.                               

There are some great free resources out there such as's ‘designing for accessibility’ which gives practical examples of designing for accessibility and also signposting to practical developer support as well.

How do we discourage owners of user services from continually "improving" - i.e. changing - the UX aspects of their designs? Particularly for those with accessibility difficulties, being forced to learn yet another new style of interaction is really unhelpful - to say the least.

Emily Cheshire: I’d say it’s not necessarily a case of discouraging change from stakeholders and owners because there may be a very valid reason for those changes, plus change can be a great opportunity to improve a site’s accessibility. It’s more about educating those decision makers to ensure the changes they are suggesting are accessible.

As mentioned in the webinar, a good rule of thumb for accessible product design and engineering is to refrain from reinventing the wheel, stick to patterns and components that users might expect or are used to. If your stakeholder is going off in a direction that will require users to learn a new interaction, the best way you can get them to reconsider their direction and vision is to challenge them around the additional cognitive load the new feature will require from all users; take it even further by asking them how they consider that to work for people with specific conditions and possible accessibility needs.  
Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one way’ to adopt accessibility or deter anti-accessibility patterns in your organisation, but your best shot is to start speaking about accessibility to your colleagues and stakeholders. I’d suggest gathering evidence of inaccessible trends and designs and how they impact users to support your case. Also, see if you could introduce your own methods to adopt accessibility in your product development and prevent changes that could reduce your product’s accessibility.

Date of webinar: 
14 Jul 2020 - 13:00