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Accessibility guidelines for UX Designers

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작성자 최고관리자 댓글 0건 조회 22회 작성일 19-08-18 15:33


As a UX designer, it is important to build empathy and celebrate accessibility requirements as a set of design constraints to build a better product.
Accessibility is a vast subject. This article focuses mainly on guidelines specific to designers and content writers (to some extent) that would help to build a more accessible product.
Understanding Accessibility
Accessibility allows users of all abilities to understand, use and enjoy the web. As designers, it is our responsibility to make sure we design in a way that is usable to all users irrespective of their situation, abilities or context.
The first and foremost step to build an accessible product is to build empathy and install an inclusive design mentality.
Accessibility is not confined to a group of users with some different abilities, for example, visual, motor, auditory, speech, or cognitive disabilities, rather it extends to anyone who is experiencing any permanent, temporary or situational disability, e.g., having only one arm is a permanent condition, having an injured arm is a temporary, and holding a baby in one arm is situational — in each case the user is able to complete tasks with only one hand.
Therefore, the aim is to make web content more usable to users in general.

Example of permanent, temporary and situational disability (Source: Microsoft’s inclusive design toolkit)
After reading the WCAG guidelines and some really knowledgable articles on accessibility (I’ll share a few links in the end), I wanted to build a set of guidelines which I could follow as a UX designer — guidelines which I can refer again and again while creating designs for products — guidelines which can become a part of my design down the lane.
The following are guidelines which were chalked down for our UXD team while working on a project in Springer Nature. These suggestions aim at targeting WCAG 2.1 conformance level AA (as recommended by W3C).
1. Content and Structure

Meaningful links
Avoid links that says ‘Click here’ or content-free text like ‘More details’ applied to a list of links.
Benefits: This would help users with motor impairments, cognitive limitations or visual disabilities by helping them to avoid unnecessary keystrokes to visit a content that is not relevant to them.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Link Purpose (in context)
Use of colour
Don’t specify important information by colour alone. Use a combination of text, colour or graphical objects.
Benefits: It is helpful for users with partial sight or limited colour vision, colour-blindness and for users who use text-only, limited colour, or monochrome display screens.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Use of color
Consistent Navigation
Ensure that repeated components occur in the same order on each page of a site.
Benefits: It is helpful for users with cognitive limitations, low vision and intellectual disabilities as it becomes easier to predict where they can find things on each page.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Consistent Navigation
Consistent Components
UI Components having same functionality should be consistent. Maintaining a design system, pattern library or style guide is encouraged to keep consistency in team. Here are some examples of amazing design systems — Shopify’s Polaris , Atlassian’s design library , BBC’s GEL .
If icons or other non-text content have the same functionality, then their text alternatives should be consistent as well.
Benefits: The consistent use of components with the same functionality helps people to identify components on different pages with desired functionality. People with difficulty reading text are highly benefitted from this. Keeping labels consistent also helps to achieve more predictable experience.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Consistent Identification
Use of headings
Use descriptive and informative page title. Page headings and labels for form and interactive controls should be informative.
Benefits: This can help users with limited short-term memory, low vision or difficulty reading text — they can see only few words at a time and know the purpose of each section.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Headings and labels , WCAG 2.1: Section headings, WCAG 2.1: Page titled
Multiple Ways
There should be more than one way available to locate a web page within a set of web pages. Exceptions: when the web page is a part of process like a checkout page.
Benefits: This helps to find the information faster which helps users with visual impairments or cognitive limitations.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Multiple Ways
2. Device independent design
Make it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs.

Don’t rely on device-dependent interactions (e.g. hover) to convey information or to complete tasks. If the design on hover or focus is really necessary, then design the interaction in such a way that users can perceive the additional content and dismiss it without disrupting their page experience.
Benefits: This can help users with low vision or cognitive disabilities — they can have adequate time to perceive additional content appearing on hover or focus and to view the trigger content with less distraction.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Content on Hover or Focus
Sensory characteristics
Don’t provide instructions which rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, colour, size, visual location, orientation or sound. for example — use a combination of positioning, colour, and labelling to identify content.
Benefits: People who are blind or have low vision may not be able to understand information if it is conveyed by shape and/or location. Providing additional information will allow them to understand the information conveyed.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Sensory characteristics
Alternative to device motion
If you use device motion to activate a feature then provide an alternative user interface for the feature or allow the user to disable the motion activation of the feature
Benefits: This helps users who are unable to perform particular motions (such as tilting, shaking, or gesturing) because the device may be mounted or users may be physically unable to perform the necessary movement. A general benefit could be in situations where users are unable to hold and move the device because their hands are occupied with some other activity.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Motion Actuation
Complex pointer gestures
If you use complex gestures, then provide single pointer alternative as well. e.g. — A map view that supports the pinch gesture to zoom and drag gestures to move the visible area. Keyboard buttons offer the operation via [ + ] and [-] buttons to zoom in and out, and arrow buttons to pan stepwise in all directions.
Benefits: Users with cognitive or learning disabilities or who cannot carry out complex gestures, will have alternate means of operating the content.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Pointer Gestures
Orientation of content
Don’t restrict your design to only portrait or landscape, unless a specific orientation is necessary.
Benefits: This can be useful for users with dexterity impairments — who have a mounted device with a fixed orientation to view the content. Users with low vision can also view content in an orientation that works best for them.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Orientation
3. For Keyboard-only users
Make sure users can interact with your page using the keyboard alone.

Focus visible
Clearly define and design the focus state of input elements. Change of content, like text, should not take place on focus.
Benefits: People with attention limitations, short term memory limitations, or limitations in executive processes benefit by being able to discover where the focus is located. This also helps users with visual disabilities, cognitive limitations, and motor impairments by reducing the chance that a change of context will occur unexpectedly.
Source: WCAG 2.1: On focus , WCAG 2.1: Focus visible
Keyboard shortcuts
Define shortcuts that can be easily used with one hand for common operations. Make use of some common keyboard shortcuts, don’t conflict with existing browser and screen reader shortcuts.
Single key shortcuts may cause problems for speech input users, so a mechanism should be provided to disable it, if needed. For example — Google mail uses ‘r’ to reply an email, it also provides a way to disable single key inputs or to remap them.
Benefits: This enhances the usability for keyboard-only users. However, speech users or keyboard only users with dexterity challenges are prone to accidentally hitting keys — so a mechanism should be provided to turn the shortcuts off.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Character key shortcuts
Logical Tab order
Use a logical keyboard navigation order. When navigating around a window with the Tab key, keyboard focus should move between controls in a predictable order.
Benefits: A logical focus order helps users with mobility impairments, users with disabilities that make reading difficult, users with visual impairments. A meaningful sequence helps users who rely on assistive technologies that read content aloud.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Focus order , WCAG 2.1: Meaningful sequence
Option to skip section
Include a “Skip to main content” link before the header for keyboard users which is visible only when it has focus.
Benefits: Keyboard users can reach content with fewer keystrokes. Screen reader users can easily skip some sections which are not relevant to them.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Bypass blocks
4. For touch targets

Ensure that touch targets are at least 9 mm high by 9mm wide, independent of the screen size, device or resolution.
Leave enough inactive space around controls so that they don’t overlap with other touch targets.
Benefits: It is helpful for users with mobility impairments such as hand tremors or have large fingers, users who use a mobile device in environments such as public transportation or users who access a device using one hand. Low vision users may better see the target.
Source: WCAG Mobile accessibility mapping: Touch target size and spacing , WCAG 2.1 Target Size
5. Opening links in new windows with advanced notice

This can be disorientating to screen reader users or users with cognitive disabilities.
If you must do it, warn the user before they click on the link that it’ll open in a new window. You can use text like “opens in a new window” or a visual icon. If you choose to use an icon, make sure it’s accessible to screen reader users.
Benefits: This helps the users by presenting content in a predictable order from one web page to the other.
Source: WCAG technique: Giving users advanced notice before opening a new window
6. Animation
Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
No content on page should flash for more than 3 times per second unless that flashing content is sufficiently small and the flashes are of low contrast and do not contain too much red.
For example, a movie with a scene involving very bright lightning flashes is edited so that the lightning only flashes three times in any one second period.
Benefits: Individuals who have seizures, photosensitive epilepsy or any other photosensitive seizure disorders would be able to enjoy the entire experience of the site.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Seizures and physical reactions , WCAG 2.1: Three flashes or below threshold , WCAG 2.1: Three flashes
7. Layout

Linear and consistent
Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
Be clear in writing; avoid jargon and idioms.
Benefits: This is useful for screen reader users, users with low vision or users on the autistic spectrum. Keeping the content clear and short helps users with dyslexia.
Source: WCAG Mobile accessibility mapping: Consistent layout , WCAG 2.1: Info and relationships
Responsive Design
Consider mobile when initially designing the layout and relevancy of content. (Mobile-first design)
Benefits: This allows the content to zoom and respond to various screen sizes without loss of information or functionality and without scrolling in two dimensions, consequently, helping the users with low vision, physical or motor disabilities.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Reflow
8. Media
Alternate text for images
This text is read by screen reader users. Images that don’t convey any content and are used for decorative purpose should not be announced by the screen reader.
Make sure there is enough description for images provided for the screen reader.
Benefits: This helps people who have difficulty perceiving visual content. Assistive technology can read text aloud, present it visually, or convert it to braille. People who are having trouble understanding audio information can read the text presentation.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Non-text content
Enough time to read and use content
Let the user pause, stop, or hide content that moves, blinks, scrolls, or automatically updates, for example, a dynamically-updating news ticker, chat messages, etc.
Benefits: People with reading disabilities, cognitive limitations, learning disabilities or any physical disabilities often need more time to react, to type and to complete activities. Control over time limits is also important, in situations where an interpreter is required.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Pause, stop, hide , WCAG 2.1: Time Adjustable
Accessible audio or video elements
Make sure you provide an alternative for pre-recorded audio-only, for example, text transcripts. Provide captions for pre-recorded audio content.
Provide an alternative for time-based media or an audio track and an audio description for pre-recorded video-only.
Benefits: Assistive technology can read text alternatives aloud, present them visually, or convert them to braille. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can read the text presentation or can access the auditory information through captions.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Audio only video only — Prerecorded , WCAG 2.1: Captions prerecorded , WCAG 2.1: Audio description — Prerecorded
9. Visual Design
Line height (line spacing) should be at least 1.5 times the font size. Spacing following paragraphs to at least 2 times the font size.
Letter spacing (tracking) to at least 0.12 times the font size. Word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size
Font sizes should not be smaller than 10 points.
Benefits: This is helpful for people with low vision, dyslexia — the increased space between lines, words, and letters helps to read the text. White space between blocks of text can help people with cognitive disabilities discern sections and call out boxes.
Source: WCAG2.1: Text spacing
Use adequate colour contrast
Text should have a colour contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 against its background.
The contrast of icons and graphical objects should be at least 3:1 against adjacent colour(s).
Large-scale text should have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1
If text is part of a logo or brand name, then there is no minimum contrast requirement.
Benefits: This helps people with low vision who often have difficulty reading text or perceiving graphics that have insufficient contrast.
Source: WCAG 2.1: Contrast Minimum , WCAG 2.1: Non-text contrast
Tools: WebAIM: Colour Contrast Tool , Mac App: Contrast

Image Credit: Google’s Accessibility for Teams
10. User Research & Testing
Cover accessibility and inclusive design issues when conducting user research. Consider potential visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities.
Incorporate accessibility considerations in your personas, or user stories.
When possible, include users with different abilities in user research.
References: Personas for accessible UX

Inclusive research and testing (Image Source)
Carry out manual testing on your designs using assistive technology tools like — screen reader, screen reader of native apps, etc.
Learn how to navigate a webpage using only your keyboard.
Observe people using assistive technology (AT) on your product or others.
Adopt an inclusive user testing. When possible, include users with different abilities in user testing and make sure to allow them to use their own equipment.
Use an audit service to find out how accessible is your design. Many tools are available to check your product’s accessibility, for example, WebAIM’s Contrast checker , Chrome extension: Funkify. Google’s Lighthouse tool also gives an overview of accessibility issues.
Design for forms
Help users understand various inputs, and help them avoid and correct mistakes.

Apart from the above guidelines, there are some key points to be kept in mind while designing a form:
Form labels and placeholder inputs: Use a label instead of a placeholder to give important information about the field.
Help text/Instructions: Add appropriate instructions and help text, if necessary.
Sensible grouping: Common or related elements should be grouped correctly.
Error messages should not be in colour alone. An informative text should be provided that helps the user to rectify the error.
Captcha: Captchas are highly controversial in the accessibility world. If you still want to use it, provide text alternatives that identify and describe its purpose.
Users should be allowed to review, confirm and rectify information before finalising submission.
Source: WCAG 2.1: On Input , WCAG 2.1: Non-text content
At the end, I would like to say that, accessibility is a team responsibility — the role of a UX designer is to serve a glue between different departments and ensure accessible design is celebrated and not enforced.
As a UX designer, going in this direction would certainly help to make lives of millions of users easier :)


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