UX Series 6: Connecting UX With Digital Accessibility Strategy

Posted on Friday, 21 August 2020 by David Sloan

The previous posts in this series introduced the user experience design process and how we can integrate accessibility into each step of this process. In this final post in the series, we reflect on accessibility in the user experience (UX) process and its connection with a digital accessibility strategy. We’ll also consider some of the other parts of a digital accessibility strategy that must be in place to produce great accessible digital experiences while minimizing risks associated with inaccessibility.

How accessibility benefits user experience design

We increase the chances that our products and services can be used and will provide a positive experience when we follow a process that’s designed to accommodate users’ needs. When we include people with disabilities in that process, we’re more likely to provide an inclusive user experience.

An inclusive UX design process has other potential benefits. Team members become more sensitive to the diversity of human needs when making decisions. Processes, resources, and tools emerge to support designing for user diversity. Coding and testing processes are adapted to efficiently manage accessibility requirements. All these changes help product teams build sustainable capacity to deliver better user experiences.

Inclusive UX is part of an accessibility strategy

Unfortunately, we can’t always ensure that all digital products and services are built from an accessibility-focused user experience design process. Some digital products may be beyond the reach of our inclusive UX design process, for example:

  • Digital products and services purchased from third parties
  • Legacy digital products that provide a specialist function and that are difficult to replace
  • Content management systems used to publish digital content

Despite our lack of influence in some scenarios, we’re still responsible for the accessibility of these digital products and the content they generate. If our digital products and services rely on third-party or legacy products, or if our content is shaped and influenced by systems that aren’t accessible, there’s a risk that our products and services will have accessibility issues that could cause barriers for people with disabilities.

Our accessibility strategy must extend beyond the design process to manage risk and avoid discrimination.

Key features of an accessibility strategy

A successful accessibility strategy requires a systemic approach to ensuring that accessibility is valued and prioritized in all decisions that affect the digital estate. It means making sure that authority, accountability, and responsibility for accessibility is appropriately assigned across an organization, starting with leadership.

To complement an inclusive UX design process, an effective accessibility strategy should establish ways to:

  • Amplify executive support for accessibility as a core value
  • Define and implement accessibility policy, including technical accessibility standards that digital products should meet
  • Define and implement a governance structure that monitors how well organizational policy is adhered to and addresses situations where it isn’t
  • Describe different roles’ accessibility responsibilities, and provide resources and training to support the staff in those roles to meet their responsibilities
  • Include accessibility knowledge and skills in hiring and onboarding processes
  • Raise visibility of disability in organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, including actively seeking to hire more employees with disabilities
  • Ensure that accessibility requirements are addressed in procurement systems for third-party digital products and services
  • Communicate progress towards meeting the accessibility policy

It takes time to successfully implement an accessibility strategy, and it requires top-down, enterprise-wide commitment and support. A successful practice of inclusive user experience needs a foundational strategy that defines an organization’s commitment to digital accessibility and disability inclusion.

Accessibility strategy and inclusive UX lead to greater success

When our accessibility strategy incorporates an inclusive user experience design approach, the result is the combined impact of accessibility as a priority risk to be managed and an opportunity to provide better digital products and services. With an accessibility strategy that supports an inclusive UX design process, we can help people who use our digital products and services achieve their goals, which in turn helps us achieve our goals.

More reading

This article is the last in a series of introductory articles on the importance of user experience (UX) to digital accessibility strategy and practice. Read all posts in the series:

For more in-depth information, read our Inclusion Blog’s UX articles. To learn more how we can help you integrate UX best practices into your digital accessibility strategy, view our UX services or contact us.

David Sloan is User Experience Research Lead with The Paciello Group. He joined TPG in May 2013, after nearly 14 years researching, teaching and providing consultancy on accessibility and inclusive design at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He is an active participant in a number of W3C accessibility-focused groups, and is an Advisory Committee member of the annual W4A Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility.


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