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When you hear the job title "Designer", what do you think of? I have to admit that I'm guilty of primarily thinking of folks combining colors, creating gradients, and drawing icons – visual designers.

The field of design is much broader, though. Think of UX designers, UI designers, Content Designers, Interaction Designers; while there are countless variants, there's one thing all professions have in common. A designer's job is to understand people and users to create great stuff (whatever that means in their area of expertise).

I just watched Anna E. Cook's talk Why We Need More Accessibility Designers, and I haven't heard of the job title "accessibility designer" before. Anne does a fabulous job explaining why more people should have accessibility as their core job. Let me share my talk highlights.

If you've been advocating for accessibility already, you probably know that accessibility is most of the time an afterthought. In most product development processes, accessibility issues are only discovered in the testing or "already deployed to production" state. That's why accessibility constantly delays deadlines and fails QA; "it's just too hard to get right"!

Graph with the headline "67% of accessibility issues can originate in design" pointing out how much time it takes to fix accessibility errors later (development 6x, testing 12x, production 30x)

But isn't the reason that it's so difficult to get right that too few people consider "all users" and are educated in accessibility topics. There seems to be a massive knowledge gap in our industry; accessibility is no focus for most designers today.

Anne shares that most product development processes are broken by design (no pun intended), and that's why we need more accessibility designers.

I never realized that 78% of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) rules and recommendations are design-related. Let me repeat that: 78% of the WCAG success criteria are design-related. How can it be that accessibility is considered so rarely in the design phase, then?

Graphic breaking the WCAG guidelines into dev and design related topics: 64% are design-related, 22% are developer-related, 14% are both

I don't have the answer to this question, but if companies hire more accessibility designers, I'm game! These specialized designers could advocate for accessibility, support and educate product teams (review, brainstorm and influence), and help organizations mature in terms of accessibility.

I love this idea, but most companies are probably not ready for these roles yet. Advocating for accessibility in a company that isn't committed to it can be a long and painful journey. There's still a lot of education needed.

But keep in mind, even if you're company is not focusing on building exceptional (and accessible) products yet, here's a last quote from Anne to close things:

You don't have to have the title "accessibility designer" to make your designs more accessible.

And with that, I just loved this talk! Have fun watching it. 👇

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About Stefan Judis

Frontend nerd with over ten years of experience, freelance dev, "Today I Learned" blogger, conference speaker, and Open Source maintainer.

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