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Good design isn’t only about making your end product look amazing; it also means ensuring that the finished product is accessible to everyone who wants to use it.

Around 285 million people, worldwide, have a visual impairment severe enough to stop them reading the text on a webpage. Over 360 million suffer from hearing loss, many more will have motor difficulties restricting their ability to use a touchscreen or a mouse. Others will have dyslexia, autism, colour blindness, epilepsy or any one of a range of challenges which prevent them accessing many websites.

Gov.uk – a case study in accessible design

If you live in the UK, it’s becoming almost impossible to get by without the UK Government website, gov.uk. The Government Digital Service realised early in their design journey that a resource so essential in the lives of so many had to be as accessible as possible.

They tackled the challenge by identifying the challenges which some of their users might face in accessing gov.uk. The team then set about creating a set of common design guidelines which would maximise these groups’ ability to use the site unassisted. You can see the fruits of their efforts – a poster series – in this blog post.

Each of the six posters identifies an area of accessibility and sets out some simple do’s and don’ts for designers. Areas covered include:

• The autistic spectrum, making sure that pages are uncluttered, use plain language and simple, consistent colour schemes.
• Screen readers, often utilised by visually impaired users and relying on the proper use of elements such as tags and heading structures.
• Designing for users with low vision, but who still access the site visually, using a large font and high contrast.
• Ensuring that the site can be accessed with a range of technology, and not only with a mouse or touchscreen, to aid users with physical or motor disabilities.
• Using subtitles and transcripts to make audio material accessible to those with a hearing impairment.
• And designing for users with Dyslexia, using the right colour schemes and clear, easy to understand text.

Spreading the word

Good designers understand the importance of accessibility, however, it’s understandable that, occasionally, it can take a back seat under the pressures of time and deadlines. To help spread the word about good, accessible design, the Government Digital Service has produced two highly recommended resources:

a blog – updated frequently with information, tips and tricks for accessible web design; and
a GitHub – repository containing downloadable, and editable, versions of the posters mentioned above, which you can use to spread the word about accessibility in your own team.

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