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Accessible Design is Mediated by Job Support Structures and Knowledge Gained Through Design Career Pathways


Abstract and Figures

Digital designers often do not make their work accessible (e.g., websites failing criteria set by the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and accessible design research discusses many solutions to address this problem (e.g., teaching accessibility within university design and technical courses). However, prior research in this area typically does not acknowledge whether recommendations and resources to support accessible design are suitable for all digital designers due to different training pathways and job support structures (e.g., large-company vs. rural and self-employed designers or designers who learned their skills outside of formal education settings). We interviewed 20 digital designers from rural and urban areas, as well as working from home and remotely, to understand the challenges they experience in making accessible content within the context of their workplace. We find that job support structures mediate the effectiveness of current accessible design recommendations and resources, and we suggest how to improve accessible design support to meet the needs of under-resourced designers.
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Accessible Design is Mediated by Job Support Structures and
Knowledge Gained Through Design Career Pathways
Department of Computing and Information Sciences Ph.D., Rochester Institute of
Technology, USA
GARRETH W. TIGWELL, School of Information, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA
Digital designers often do not make their work accessible (e.g., websites failing criteria set by the W3C’s Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines), and accessible design research discusses many solutions to address this
problem (e.g., teaching accessibility within university design and technical courses). However, prior research
in this area typically does not acknowledge whether recommendations and resources to support accessible
design are suitable for all digital designers due to dierent training pathways and job support structures (e.g.,
large-company vs. rural and self-employed designers or designers who learned their skills outside of formal
education settings). We interviewed 20 digital designers from rural and urban areas, as well as working from
home and remotely, to understand the challenges they experience in making accessible content within the
context of their workplace. We nd that job support structures mediate the eectiveness of current accessible
design recommendations and resources, and we suggest how to improve accessible design support to meet the
needs of under-resourced designers.
CCS Concepts: Human-centered computing Accessibility.
Additional Key Words and Phrases: Accessible Design, Remote Work, Resources, Rural, Workplace
ACM Reference Format:
Sarah Andrew and Garreth W. Tigwell. 2022. Accessible Design is Mediated by Job Support Structures and
Knowledge Gained Through Design Career Pathways. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 6, CSCW2, Article 487
(November 2022), 24 pages.
Digital designers
have had access to information on accessibility for at least 50 years [
. However,
we are still living in an age where digital services and technology continue to be inaccessible (e.g.,
apps [
], social media [
], and websites [
]). Although research has investigated the reasons for
inaccessible design (e.g., education, time, money) and recommended how we can support designers
(e.g., by improving accessibility guidelines [
] and design tools [
]), prior work does not
reect on how support needs dier depending on resources available to designers.
Our work focuses on understanding the challenges in achieving digital accessibility from the
perspective that not all digital designers are equally supported. For many years, CSCW researchers
have been interested in the role technology plays in people’s work practices and how organizational
structures inuence people or group collaborative eorts through evolving methodologies [
For simplicity, we will refer to the creators of apps, games, software, websites, etc., as digital designers, regardless of
whether they work on the code, user interfaces, and/or user experience since it all contributes to the overall system design.
It is worth noting that the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing (ACM
SIGACCESS) was founded in 1971 under the name SIGCAPH [
] and earlier discussions by the ACM to support blind
people working with computers started in 1964 [87].
Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., Vol. 6, No. CSCW2, Article 487. Publication date: November 2022.
Authors’ addresses: Sarah Andrew, Department of Computing and Information Sciences Ph.D., Rochester Institute of
Technology, Rochester, NY, USA,; Garreth W. Tigwell, School of Information, Rochester Institute of
Technology, Rochester, NY, USA,
© 2022 Copyright held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM.
This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The denitive Version
of Record was published in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction,
]. In addition, recent accessibility research has emphasized the need to consider how the
accessibility of digital systems is the result of a combination of factors spanning underlying code
through to design practice and wider institutional inuences [75].
We recognize that digital designers can have a combination of dierent design training (e.g.,
traditional university degree vs. self-taught) and job support structures (e.g., large-company vs.
rural and self-employed designers). In particular, the perspective of rurality is important [
]. Not
only do rural communities tend to fall behind with advances in internet connectivity and technology
ownership, but they also face geographic isolation [
]. Thus, we were interested in exploring
these dierent factors, which could limit fullling current accessible design recommendations for
meeting and working with disabled people [8, 92].
We interviewed 20 digital designers from various work locations and workplace structures and
found that: 1) workplace support structures aect designers’ implementation of accessibility; 2)
unique design career pathways aect awareness and understanding of accessible design; and 3)
there are hesitations and challenges in connecting with disabled people.
Our primary contribution is a set of recommendations drawn from our understanding of how
access to dierent levels of resources aects accessible design, as well as the needs and challenges
designers anticipate. Our recommendations cover: 1) eort being directed toward supporting
designers working in dierent geographical settings; 2) establishing procedures to guide digital de-
signers who want to connect with disabled people for accessibility evaluations; 3) larger companies
continuing to lead the eld by exploring more opportunities to support freelance and self-employed
digital designers with access to accessibility advocates and training materials; and 4) embedding
accessibility support in all types of design tools and alternative educational resources.
Andrew and Tigwell
Work practices and organizational structures are a topic of interest for CSCW researchers [28, 79,
]. Furthermore, accessible design is very much inuenced by many factors, including worker
knowledge and company structure [
]. Our work focuses on this intersection by investigating the
challenges in achieving digital accessibility from the perspective that not all digital designers are
equally supported.
2.1 Why Digital Accessibility is Important?
About 1 billion people worldwide have a disability [
], but accessible technology benets every-
body when we consider the need to design for age-related impairments [
], acquired or temporary
impairments [
] (e.g., a broken arm [
]), or situational impairments [
] (e.g., interaction
issues with a mobile device under varying lighting conditions [94]).
Accessible digital content for all users is only possible if we acknowledge that context plays a
big role [
] and that many points in the life-cycle of a product can factor into whether it becomes
inaccessible [
]. At its lowest level, these could be issues in the underlying code and/or visual
design. As we step back to look at the higher-level causes of inaccessibility, the factors become
more extrinsic (e.g., lack of time, poor testing protocols, insucient education on accessible design,
and a mindset within the company that does not value accessibility) [75].
Historically, progress toward a digital society has not been equitable. Technology evolves rapidly,
but the focus on accessibility often lags behind within the broader context of advancing human-
computer interaction [
], which exacerbates the exclusion of people with disabilities [
]. A
further limiting factor is society’s misperceptions of assistive technology [84].
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:3
2.2 The Reality of Digital Accessibility In Practice
Computing and design elds have advocated for accessibility through numerous design practices
such as Ability-Based Design [
], Inclusive Design [
], Universal Design [
], Universal Usabil-
ity [
], and User-Sensitive Inclusive Design [
]. Although these schools of thought dier in some
capacity, they arguably all have the same core value of ensuring the design and development of
digital systems that disabled people can use.
Despite continued reection on—and revision of—the theories that help to guide accessible
digital design, we do not see strong results in practice; that is, many digital services, systems, and
technologies are still found to be inaccessible (e.g., [
]). Government websites have
inaccessible content [
], despite being subject to stricter accessibility laws than regular
websites [
], and even Fortune 100 companies with extensive resources can have inaccessible
websites [
]. More generally, the largest assessment to date from WebAIM revealed in an audit of
one million home pages that 97.4% had at least one WCAG violation and a calculated average of 51.4
errors per page [
]. Finally, mobile apps are equally problematic with inaccessible features [
111], especially when developers rarely use the accessibility APIs available to them [100].
This is all to say that an inaccessibility problem in design persists. From an end-user perspective,
this has not gone unnoticed; there are real implications and, as a result, increased lawsuits [99].
2.3 Are Digital Designers Adequately Supported in Making Accessible Content?
Digital designers often hold negative attitudes toward accessibility. For many years, we have
been aware of perceived tensions between design and accessibility, where digital designers do not
believe appealing visual design and accessibility can occur in harmony [
]. However, this
perception is misguided since appealing visual design can also have good accessibility [72].
Another reason for inaccessible design is that digital designers are under-supported with the
necessary resources (e.g., education, time, money) to make accessible content [
]. For example, a 2021 large-scale survey of Brazilian mobile developers (872 participants)
found less than half had some knowledge on implementing accessibility [
]—even familiarity with
accessibility guidelines does not guarantee condence in accessible design [45].
Accessibility education is an essential solution, but, in general, accessibility is often not given
enough focus in design and technical courses, meaning professionals lack sucient knowledge
of accessibility [
]. Adding accessibility as a core part of a degree is possible [
and would help problems with the learn-it-on-your-own culture in computing [
]. However, this
requires faculty with knowledge of accessibility, which is often lacking [83].
Accessibility guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) [
] are
a practical, low-cost resource that designers can use to support making informed decisions and
evaluations of their design’s accessibility. However, guidelines are often not widely available or
easy to understand [45, 74, 89, 95, 97], promoting the development of alternatives [21, 90].
Digital designers make extensive use of design tools to carry out their work, but the tools need
to t within the design process or risk being abandoned [
]. Although there are tools
with a primary focus on creating accessible content (e.g., choosing accessible color schemes for
maps [
]), they are often separate tools or not developed in a way that ts well within the overall
design process [
]—the tools have limited features that support the full range of a designer’s
creativity. Automatic accessibility tools could support digital designers quickly [
], but there are
limitations on how useful those tools are [
]; user testing remains an integral part of evaluating
the accessibility of digital spaces [
]. Two recent papers that build upon extensive prior
work have sought to understand accessible design practice further and make recommendations for
supporting designers.
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487:4 Andrew and Tigwell
The rst paper is by Azenkot et al. [
], who looked at understanding how accessibility practi-
tioners promote the creation of accessible products in large companies. Azenkot et al. recruited 30
participants from 13 large companies. They found that although an eort was made to improve
accessibility, there is still a need to further improved infrastructure support, development of new
guidelines, tools, and accessibility education to ensure all company workers contribute to the
creation of accessible products.
The second paper is by Tigwell [92], who investigated how to support digital designers so that
they do not rely on using disability simulations in place of collaborating with disabled people
during the design process (see [
] for a deeper reection on issues surrounding disability
simulations). Seventeen blind, low vision, and color blind interviewees suggested changing design
workplace processes, culture, and stang, as well as encouraging digital designers to connect with
local and national organizations, and recruiting disabled people online for evaluations.
However, when we reect on who is a designer, it becomes clear that recommendations from
prior work will not always provide sucient support. For example, addressing systemic issues
in the workplace is essential, but what does this mean for a self-employed designer? Moreover,
designers in dierent countries do not all have the same access to local and national disability
charities, especially if the designer lives in a rural area. Similarly, while the internet provides many
opportunities for connecting designers with disabled people, it assumes the designer has access to
a stable and fast internet connection.
2.4 The Dierent Levels of Resources
Geolocation—Urban and Rural Living. There are approximately 3.4 billion people worldwide who
live in rural areas [
]. In the US, this is 14% of the population, with a further 25% living in
large suburban areas [
]. Inequalities in rural infrastructure have been an ongoing issue. People
living and working in urban communities are generally supported with high-speed internet, new
technology, and educational attainment [
]. However, this is not the case for people from rural
communities who can have less reliable broadband connections and are often left behind in terms
of news, technology, and education [
]. Most HCI Research focuses on urban populations
instead of rural communities. However, there are opportunities for technology to oer new sources
of information to people in rural communities. Their situations and the technology available to
them must be taken into consideration [
]. Understanding the options of rural digital designers
overcomes our ideas and assumptions of what rurality is in this context [26].
Distinctions Between Freelance, Small and Large Company Designers. Although many people might
call themselves a designer, their roles and responsibilities can dier substantially. Some designers
are self-employed, some work in small companies, and some in large companies. Each of these roles
comes with dierent levels of time, cost, and leadership support, depending on the country the
designers work from [
]. Designers who freelance often work alone and typically will also take
on the role of actively nding new clients. It is important to note that among freelance designers,
gender role constraints can also aect their pricing of digital designs [
], which has possible
implications for the overall design process and accessible design. Designers who work in small
companies may or may not work in a team depending on its size, often sharing their workspace
with another small company [
]. Small companies such as design startups are under much pressure
as they need to be aware of and adapt to the needs of the market in order for it to succeed [
Designers who work in large companies often work as a team with members spread out across the
globe and have to keep up with the dierent time zones [
], but often they do not have full creative
freedom to fulll their design ideas due to reduced ownership in a corporate design setting [98].
Therefore, we anticipate nding dierent experiences for designers working in dierent locations
and for dierent types of companies. What we hope to contribute with our work are deeper insights
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:5
into where there might be commonalities and dierences between designers and what this means
for current and future accessible design practice recommendations.
2.5 Research estions
Building on prior work, we focused our research eorts on understanding accessible design in the
context of available resources. We ran an IRB-approved study to investigate the following:
RQ1: How does access to dierent levels of resources inuence accessible design?
RQ2: What needs and challenges should be considered to eectively support digital designers
working in those dierent contexts?
3.1 Materials and Procedure
We rst conducted three pilot semi-structured interviews to rene our process and interview guide.
We conducted our interviews on Zoom due to COVID-19. We recorded our interviews to create an
accurate transcript that would support our analysis process. Our interviews covered several broad
topics on how accessibility is considered by designers, challenges with implementing accessibility
and evaluating accessibility, whether designers collaborate with disabled people, and the support
they would need to achieve collaboration with disabled people. Our semi-structured interviews
were scheduled for 60 minutes (min=37 mins, max=64 mins).
We advertised our interview study from 24th May 2021 to 28th June 2021 among online design
communities (e.g., Facebook and Reddit) and sought moderator approval when necessary. Potential
participants rst completed a screening questionnaire, which provided us with an opportunity to
ensure a diverse participant sample. All interview questions were optional. Our participants were
compensated $15 for taking part.
3.2 Analysis
We followed Braun and Clarke’s steps for thematic analysis [
]. Our analysis of the interview data
began with identifying codes, categorizing the codes according to the patterns, and then generating
themes. The lead author used the Zoom recordings to write accurate transcripts and re-familiarize
herself with the data. She generated initial codes by reading through the data and used Miro
( to support a remote, collaborative, and iterative discussion for organizing and
collating codes. The research team collaboratively discussed the codes in several rounds, identifying
initial themes, and then produced the nal themes. We do not report inter-rater reliability because
it is not part of Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis.
3.3 Participants
We interviewed 20 participants (7 female, 12 male, and 1 did not disclose
) aged 18 or older who
were located across six countries (10 from the United States, 4 from India, 3 from Nigeria, 1 from
Canada, Ireland, and the UK). It was important that we asked participants about how they would
describe their design career (e.g., working within the division of a company or organization). We
also asked participants to self-identify if they primarily worked in an urban area (we provided
the examples of a city and town) or a rural area (we provided the example of a village), as well as
their current working style (remote, home, oce), since available resources would vary on those
Table 1 provides an overview of our participants (including three pilot interviews). Our partic-
ipants varied in the type of design training they had (Table 2), content they designed (Table 3),
We oered the options: woman, man, non-binary, prefer not to disclose, prefer to self-describe based on prior work [
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487:6 Andrew and Tigwell
Table 1. Interview participant demographics covering gender, age range, years of experience, and type of
career, which includes: Designer working within the division of a company or organization (C), Designing as
part of a hobby or pastime activities (H), Self-employed designer (S), Other (O) - Student designer (Oa) and
Occasional design for clients (O
). Our participants worked in Urban areas (U - e.g., City, Town) and Rural
areas (R - e.g., village), as well as Working From Home (WFH) and Remote (e.g., from a coee shop) due to
COVID-19. Finally, our participants indicated how many of their design projects included accessibility.
ID Gender Age Experience Career Working from Working style Accessibility
Pilot 1 W 25-34 7 C U WFH 40-60%
Pilot 2 M 35-44 20 C U Remote,WFH,Oce 60-80%
Pilot 3 M 18-24 3 S U WFH,Oce 20-40%
P1 M 18-24 9 S U WFH <20%
P2 M 25-34 1 C U,R WFH,Oce <20%
P3 M 25-34 3 C U Oce >80%
P4 M 18-24 2 H R Remote,WFH 20-40%
P5 M 18-24 0.5 H R Remote,WFH,Oce 60-80%
P6 M 18-24 5 H U Remote,WFH <20%
P7 M 25-34 10 H,C U Remote,Oce <20%
P8 M 18-24 0.5 Oa U WFH 60-80%
P9 M 18-24 0.5 S U Remote,WFH 60-80%
P10 W 18-24 2 S, C U Remote,WFH,Oce 20-40%
P11 M 18-24 2 H,S U,R Remote 40-60%
P12 W 25-34 1.5 H,Ob U Remote <20%
P13 W 25-34 4 C R WFH >80%
P14 - 18-24 0.5 H,C - Remote,WFH >80%
P15 W 35-44 10 H,S,C U WFH 40-60%
P16 W 18-24 6 H,S,C U Remote,WFH,School 20-40%
P17 M 25-34 8 H,S,C U WFH 100%
P18 W 18-24 3 H,C U Remote,WFH, Oce 40-60%
P19 W 18-24 4 S U WFH 0%
P20 M 18-24 3 H,C U Remote,WFH >80%
Table 2. A summary of the design training interviewees had (multiple choices allowed). Other(s) not indicated:
UX/UI Design Bootcamp.
Type of Design Training Total
Self-taught 11
University (Undergraduate) 9
University (Graduate or Postgraduate) 6
Apprenticeship 2
Associate’s degree 2
Other not indicated 1
and experience using dierent design project tools (Table 4). Although our participants represent
various design backgrounds/job descriptions, there were still overlapping needs and experiences.
Our participants were all working remotely at the time of the interview—many worked from home.
Overall, our participants included accessibility in their designs when it was a required part of
the project scope. They had experience implementing: text-to-speech, using alt-texts, captions,
bigger fonts, and good color contrast. Digital designers mentioned nding it dicult to follow
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:7
Table 3. A summary of the digital content interviewees created (multiple choices allowed). Other(s) not
indicated: Web and social media ads, Embedded Systems, Graphic Designs, Digital Art: Posters, Icons, etc.
Type of Content Designed Total
Desktop websites 18
Android apps 15
Mobile websites 14
Mobile games 14
iOS apps 10
Desktop games 5
Others not indicated 5
Universal Windows Platform apps 3
Table 4. A summary of the design project tools interviewees used (multiple choices allowed). Other(s) not
indicated: Webflow, spark,, Canva.
Type of Design Project Tools Total
Prototyping software 18
Physical tools 18
Graphic editors 17
Visual eects software 11
Coding environments 8
Supported collaboration software 2
Others not indicated 3
guidelines or that they were a little wordy P7 (Urban, USA), which leads them to use Google or
Pinterest to identify accessible designs. Only two participants from large companies mentioned
working on projects where the primary users were people with impairments (e.g., Deaf and Hard
of Hearing users). P13 (Rural, USA) and P15 (Urban, USA) chose to disclose they have impairments
and explained how their experience motivates their advocacy for accessibility.
Our ndings center around three themes: 1) workplace support structures aect designers’ imple-
mentation of accessibility; 2) unique design career pathways aect awareness and understanding of
accessible design; and 3) there are hesitations and challenges in connecting with disabled people.
4.1 Workplace support structures aect designers’ implementation of accessibility
Our rst theme illustrates the challenges in accessible design that occur between working individu-
ally through to working as part of a larger organization, and, in particular, we draw focus to the
inuence of power dynamics and coping with unexpected situations.
Designers from smaller companies such as startup organizations tend to nd that they are at a
disadvantage in terms of fullling recommended accessible design practices:
I don’t have access to people because it’s only like a one man job. I just design what the
client needs, and I will give it to them, within that time. P19 (Urban, India)
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487:8 Andrew and Tigwell
The client’s inuence on design decisions can be strong for designers who do not have a larger
support network—as P9 (Urban, Nigeria) emphasizes, accessibility becomes a requirement within
top-level design jobs, but is dicult to implement when not working for those companies. We found
that designers who work independently are experiencing challenges addressing accessibility, but in
contrast to larger companies, this can result from a lack of resources (e.g., money). For example,
P20 (Urban, USA) mentioned that his status as a university student made it is dicult to connect
with disabled people for design evaluations precisely because of fewer resources at his disposal.
Deadlines are a common aspect of design work, and designers nd accessibility can be left out
due to lack of time. However, even though larger companies may have more designers, it does not
translate to freeing up time for accessibility:
A public aairs rm is lot more reactionary. So they want things a lot more faster. So, I
feel like I get limited from what I can design. Because I don’t have the time to do more
creative design work. P7 (Urban, USA)
The unfortunate outcome from this work practice is that accessibility gets sidelined—most likely
because it was never part of the project scope, which is part of the broader issue. If accessibility is
not required, it becomes a ‘nice to do’ task that is typically not done.
Our participants pointed out that working for larger companies likely improves the available
resources to support them in recruiting particular user groups for evaluations. Although accessibility
should be negotiated as part of the project timeline (and cost), as our participants discussed, designers
often take the clients’ lead for what is covered in the design project scope.
4.1.1 Power dynamics in the workplace. When designers are working in companies rather than for
themselves, there are often protocols in place and people higher up in the workplace who have the
nal say on a design (e.g., managers):
It stems from leadership because they don’t believe that there’s a return on investment for
investing, seeing inclusive and accessible products, they see that still as like, you know, 2%
of people? Oh, well, if we don’t get that 2%, who cares? We’ll make our money somewhere
else. And it’s like, it’s not 2% of people. P15 (Urban, USA)
This might be one of the few instances where freelance or self-employed designers are at an
advantage because they do not have other people on the team overruling any accessible design
Having someone who is both a decision-maker and an advocate for accessibility can be ideal—
this lead-by-example approach would positively aect accessible design. We did nd evidence of
advocacy, but considering these instances are still not the norm, designers with a smaller network
can feel isolated. To provide an example of this, we compare the contrasting views of an urban
designer and a rural designer:
My boss at my current job right now, denitely stressed that with the new design to make
sure that colors and the text itself are readable. P18 (Urban, USA)
But sometimes I do get stuck. I’m the only user experience designer on the team. And so
it sometimes I feel like I wish I had another person that I can like talk to, to get ideas, and
feed o of one another. P13 (Rural, USA)
Prior work has found that sometimes the only way to include accessibility is to have a cham-
pion [
]. However, we need ways to ensure that under-resourced designers have access to champions,
to become champions themselves, or even to have another designer passionate about accessibility
to guide and motivate each other.
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:9
4.1.2 Sudden and unexpected situations. Since design work is a uid practice, we want to draw
attention to the concept of sudden and unexpected situations that aect how designers with dierent
levels of resources might cope.
We want to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic, which was ongoing during our interviews.
At the time of writing, there are evident inequities in how the pandemic is being managed, aecting
working conditions. There are vaccines and booster shortages [
], and some countries have not
been able to acquire vaccines quickly [
]. Many oces closed in response to the pandemic, and
we found most of our participants conducting remote work/working from home. An adjustment of
work practice can be disruptive. However, larger companies can provide more support [
], which
will improve the transition to working from home compared to under-resourced designers.
Remote work/working from home introduced challenges that aect productivity. P1 (Urban, India)
mentioned that it is a privilege to be able to access the internet. Rural communities typically lag in
stable and fast internet, although, even in cities, there can be variability in internet speeds. Eight of
our participants had issues with internet connectivity during our interviews, which provides some
insights into potential issues if those designers were trying to run a video-based remote design
evaluation session. However, this is not to say that rural designers are unable to work eectively:
Oh, to be fair, the internet here is not that bad. And the electricity is stable enough. So,
and there’s a school close by. And, yeah, they have this sort of, like a workspace. Yeah,
so you pay monthly to get, I mean, there’s constant electricity and internet. P11 (Rural,
Our interview with P11 (Rural, Nigeria) highlighted opportunities for community-based solu-
tions to support rural workers. Alternative use of infrastructure already within the community
demonstrates resourcefulness that could be leveraged to further opportunities for under-resourced
designers who want to increase their focus on accessible design.
4.2 Unique design career pathways aect awareness and understanding of accessible
Our second theme illustrates the ways in which design training has become democratized in
such a way that it can be obtained through multiple avenues, as well as the implications of such
democratization in terms of awareness, enactment, and mentorship for accessible design practice.
We made observations that accessibility awareness, education, and understanding take form in
many ways, but since it continues throughout a designer’s career, exposure and opportunities were
experienced dierently. Often when we talk about education on accessibility and disability, we
think of higher education. However, digital design is a eld where people can access many other
resources to train themselves if they wish to switch careers.
Three of our participants described switching careers from engineering and business to design.
In the case of P2 (Rural, India), this started with gaining an online certicate and joining a startup
about two months later. P12 (Urban, USA) avoided this by initially working closely with designers
who were hired and learning the necessary skills herself. Our participants’ experience highlighted
the opportunities for avoiding going through the long and potentially expensive route of retraining
through obtaining a university degree.
4.2.1 Accessibility exposure and training. We were interested in identifying where those opportuni-
ties to learn accessible design are found. We previously summarized that some of our participants
took alternative pathways into design careers, and it would be natural to ask what aspect of design
training might be missed? P1 (Urban, India)—who was a self-taught graphic designer—mentioned
that if he enrolled in a college or university course, he would expect [accessibility] to be taught”.
However, we found that accessibility was not guaranteed in formal design education. Another
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487:10 Andrew and Tigwell
inuence on accessibility awareness relates to culture since we found that cultural dierences may
constrain openness for engaging with accessibility:
So, I realized that, like after coming to the United States, we realized that we have a
much more open culture about accessibility and how they wanted to make, we want
accessibility to be present for everyone, for all users [...] And this is a really good idea.
This was something really profound. P14 (USA)
In contrast, P7 (Urban, USA) was critical of the level of engagement designers have with accessible
design, despite existing laws. He mentioned that designers working for the government and private
sector would focus more on accessible design because it is a requirement. Designers who do not
work for the government and private sectors have less incentive to follow accessible design practices,
but that is not to say that countries like the US always do well in creating accessible designs.
4.2.2 Supporting accessible design practice. Recognizing that designers have dierent awareness
and motivations for accessible design, there is an opportunity to explore various support avenues.
P20 (Urban, USA) provided an example where he had heard of a large company providing lectures
as a form of continued training. We also found evidence to suggest that working in larger teams
meant that designers would learn more about accessibility and support one another through the
process. Although it is encouraging to know large companies create learning opportunities due
to more resources and serendipitous learning through colleagues, we need to ensure freelance
or self-employed digital designers and digital designers in smaller companies are supported with
similar opportunities because they do not often have those educational interactions:
Working like a freelance job, you get a lot more freedom. But the thing is, you don’t get
as much like assistance or mentoring. P20 (Urban, USA)
Mentorship is an essential aspect of any professional job. Our participants did discuss an alterna-
tive to individual mentorships, such as through meetups to disseminate accessibility awareness
and knowledge. P15 (Urban, USA) was able to attend UX events in her town. For designers who
cannot make such events, P19 (Urban, India) suggested following podcasts by disabled people who
share their viewpoints on using technology. Furthermore, P8 (Urban, USA) felt that awareness and
accessible design tips could be shared through online communities such as Behance and within
design tool interfaces since designers will be using those tools when they work.
4.3 There are hesitations and challenges in connecting with disabled people
Our third theme illustrates the concerns designers have about the feasibility of accessing dis-
abled people for design evaluations, working with disabled people in a way that accommodates
communication needs, and whether technological solutions can oer adequate support.
Prior work has emphasized that many paths can be explored to recruit disabled people for
evaluations and for designers to collaborate with disabled people (e.g., reaching out to disability
organizations and using online platforms) [
]. We agree that the approach reported in prior work
was crucial since disabled people must be part of any discussion related to their involvement
in design evaluations. Furthermore, disabled people should get to describe what they view as
appropriate solutions for connecting with designers. However, we acknowledge in our current
work that those ideas may not be feasible for all types of designers, which led us to share those
prior work ideas with our interview participants to identify potential issues that still need resolving.
We found there were concerns about connecting to relevant communities for accessible design
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:11
We found that only four participants recruited disabled people for feedback on their designs. In
contrast, our other participants seldom or have never recruited disabled people for feedback on
their designs, for example:
I’ve never had a feedback from someone who [has] a disability. P5 (Rural, Nigeria)
I guess right now, we don’t have a huge audience for like feedback [...] I know someone
who’s colorblind. So, sometimes I’ll show my project or whatever to them and see if it’s
clear for them to understand. But unfortunately, I don’t have I guess, the means of, kind
of trialing my projects on larger bases with, with people with [disabilities]. P18 (Urban,
When we considered the work support structures of our participants, it was clear that designers
starting out or working alone felt they could not consistently recruit disabled people for accessibility
tests—we received comments such as prioritizing client needs due to limited resources and working
without a team, for example:
Like, for me, as a university student, it’s a lot more dicult to get the resources to do
that. So for me, once in a while, I do have some friends who are at [college] Deaf and hard
of hearing. So I get their feedback, and some of them are color blind as well. And then
at [work], we denitely have a lot more resources to do whatever we need to do. So we
denitely do reach out to [disabled people]. And it denitely is helpful when you have the
resources to do so. P20 (Urban, USA)
P20 can reect on his position as a student creating designs and the limited resources he has
compared to when he creates designs for his company.
Furthermore, assumptions are a motivating eort since P1 (Urban, India) believed disabled people
are not part of his company’s userbase and, therefore, accessibility is not considered necessary.
Although, we have to question whether a design rm truly has an audience without disabilities or
if their design excludes disabled people from being part of their audience or userbase.
On a more individual level, there were concerns about meeting basic communication needs.
We identied instances where our participants recognized communication gaps such as if the
designer did not know sign language (P17; Urban, USA). Furthermore, P1 (Urban, India) had similar
concerns about communication with Deaf and hard of hearing people through video conferencing
and without interpreters. An interpreter would be necessary since he was not taught sign language
at school.
4.3.1 Working with Disabled People. We found that working with disabled people results in a
positive experience:
So for that, luckily, we had disabled people in the team itself, or I mean, in our workspace,
we were able to. It was easier for them to be able to reach out to them and then get back
to us. But I mean, that’s how I am aware of, but I don’t think that actually going out to
people outside that workspace. P14 (USA)
We raised this point to our participants as something to work towards. They were receptive
to this, acknowledging it would signicantly increase consideration of accessibility for a range
of impairments. P18 (Urban, USA) and P13 (Rural, USA) recognized the learning opportunities of
collaborating with disabled designers. Unfortunately, freelance or individual designers lose out on
these experiences. Even smaller companies often have little choice initially on hires:
But for small startups, it’s very dicult to implement that. Maybe gradually, they can
implement that culture into their organization, they maybe can’t do right now. But in the
future they can. P2 (Rural, India)
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487:12 Andrew and Tigwell
Some participants discussed reaching out to people they know who have a disability as a solution:
I asked [friend], he is colorblind. So he helped us see if the website was actually helpful?
Because I remember playing Among Us! with him, and he couldn’t tell the colors. So yeah,
I thought he would be the best subject for me to use as an experiment. P6 (Urban, Ireland)
However, unless formal procedures are implemented, or the disabled person feels comfortable
declining, there is likely a high risk of taking advantage or burdening disabled people when asking
them to check accessible design:
Yeah, so I have a lot of resources as far as, networks, with people who are Deaf and hard
of hearing and people who are blind. Mainly from an email chain that I’m in. So, but I’m
not sure, like, their willingness, like, would they be willing to? And, you know, is there
something that they would want to be doing? You know, I think there’s a comes to a point
where people get tired of explaining and get tired of being asked, like, hey, how can we
make this better for people? P13 (Rural, USA)
P13 (Rural, USA) makes an essential point about possible fatigue, but there are instances where
designers would not need to contact disabled people. For example, reaching out to somebody who
is color blind to ask about accessible colors is not ecient. Instead, designers could use WCAG
as a starting point to ensure some level of accessible design and then reach out for evaluations
or more specic discussions not covered by current guidelines. Furthermore, P3 (Urban, Nigeria)
acknowledged that people with disabilities who are asked to take these types of roles should not just
be chosen as tokens or ‘window dressing’, but should be viewed and treated as equal partners in your
organization or initiative. Though oering compensation would help to establish recognition of
service, the level of compensation possible could dier between large companies and freelance or
self-employed designers, which was a concern raised by P9 (Urban, Nigeria).
4.3.2 Working with Disability Organizations. Another discussion point we used was increasing
collaborations through local and national disability organizations [
]. Although disabled people
from prior work had emphasized that digital designers should be able to reach out to local and
national disability organization to run evaluation sessions, we found that reaching out to local and
national disability organizations would be challenging for two reasons. First, there was concern
that designers or design rms would be viewed as taking advantage—P15 (Urban, USA) discussed
the awkwardness around the transactional nature of businesses doing this to make more money.
However, this seems more like an opportunity to educate businesses to oer appropriate compensa-
tion and approach disability organizations and their members so that everybody feels comfortable
with the circumstances. The second concern was that disability organizations or disabled people
would not be available:
Maybe, as I said, if I’m there in a city on my, like, my startup company, like where the
situation is, situated in [city name]. [If] I’m working there, maybe by the context of my
colleagues, or the country, people like the density in the area, or the city, because of that, I
may get contact with the disabled people very easily compared to right now. P2 (Rural,
In this case, P2 (Rural, India) is working in a rural area, limiting the potential access to recruit
disabled people. Creative solutions that leverage technology for remote access could be a solution.
We found interest in utilizing online services to overcome issues in connecting with disability
organizations or disabled people, for example:
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:13
You could log on to a service or platform and get the disabled users to actively engage in
a product. I think that would be nice. That would be a very eective thing. P9 (Urban,
Designers are pretty receptive to using online platforms and reaching out to organizations for the
most part. However, only ve designers were aware of existing online platforms that allow designers
to get accessibility feedback from disabled people. P18 (Urban, USA) expanded the organization
concept to suggest that colleges/universities create a “beta test” service. Whereas P1 (Urban, India)
thought of a separate community on a service like LinkedIn where people can identify themselves
as having a disability
. Although prior work also emphasized that there are always online avenues
to explore [
], we know from our study that internet issues could make such solutions unreliable
(see section 4.1.2).
4.3.3 Utilizing accessible design templates and tools. Finally, we want to highlight the benet that
templates and tools have. Designers can often build products with reused components, or the design
team might individually create dierent assets that will be pulled together. As P9 (Urban, Nigeria)
said, bake in the accessibility”, it would reduce the inaccessibility creeping into the product [
Similarly, design tools could do more to warn about inaccessible design:
Let’s say in an ideal world, how about all of the programs that we use to design. Our
Microsoft or Adobe or Google Chrome, if there was a button there that says accessibility
mode, and it just gured it out for us? [...] In it, there’s a little ag. This is ‘inaccessible
we click on it, it tells us why. P12 (Urban, USA)
For P12 (Urban, USA), who does not have access to many resources, it would address challenges
where they might be unable to nd or work with disability organizations. Our participant reected
on design tools guiding accessibility and it was evident that the industry is doing this to some
extent. P1 (Urban, India) mentioned color blind simulations in Figma, yet there are many criticisms
surrounding disability simulations (e.g., [
]). Other ideas included checklists, benchmarking
tools, personal narratives from people with dierent disabilities, and wikis. However, no single
solution is going to be eective on its own:
So once even with the guidelines and everything, it says that we use we need to use these
colors. The colorblind people might not nd my website compatible or not good enough,
you know. So after that feedback, you can make changes and it’s not gonna take me a lot
of time. P6 (Urban, Ireland)
From P6, we can learn that guidelines, though helpful at the moment, may not be 100% accurate.
Feedback from disabled people can overcome accessibility challenges that most simulations miss.
In summary, designers need to be educated, made aware of, and provided with the right tools
and resources to implement accessibility in their design. The current state of resources and how
those resources are accessed are far from supporting designers to achieve 100% accessibility.
We build on prior work by asking how access to dierent levels of resources aects designing
accessible content because digital designers often work in many dierent contexts. In particular,
opportunities are going to dier signicantly over the span of dierent workplace support structures
(e.g., large company vs. small company vs. startup vs. freelance or self-employed designers).
Although P1’s idea is in the context of making it easier for designers to identify potential disabled testers and employees,
some disabled people may not be comfortable publicly disclosing their disability, and the idea suggests going down an
already criticized path where disabled people are to use a separate service [46, 47].
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487:14 Andrew and Tigwell
Our study is one of the rst to acknowledge and investigate how location and resource in-
equality factor into the success of attaining accessible design. Our ndings showed that there are
many nuanced factors related to a digital designers’ workplace support structure that makes it
challenging to create accessible content. These factors must be considered so that we continue
to develop solutions for increasing accessible design that benets all designers. Furthermore, our
ndings also made it clear that we need a much broader perspective on how digital designers learn
about accessibility because of the many pathways they can take toward building a design career.
Accessibility advocates and researchers should address issues in the context of available resources.
5.1 Complex Support Structures and Accessibility Knowledge Exposure
Our 20 participants represented a diverse group of digital designers working remotely, sometimes
from home, in rural and/or urban settings for large and small companies, or even as independent
designers, and learning design through traditional or non-traditional learning methods.
Two of our participants highlighted how important it is for disabled people to be part of the
design process, which reinforces prior work [
]. However, our ndings draw attention to
challenges dependent on resources with regards to communication requirements with disabled
people, as well as online and oine access to disabled people.
Communication is necessary during collaborations, but our ndings indicated concerns about
resources to support this in alternative modes (e.g., ASL). For example, a designer would need
to budget for interpreters as part of the project cost for implementing accessibility. We found
that larger companies have more opportunities to absorb those costs. In contrast, freelance or
self-employed designers may nd it more complex, and the service of smaller design businesses
may be viewed as less desirable by potential clients if costs increase.
We found that the level of resources can also aect how digital designers handle unexpected
situations, which could ultimately aect accessible design when access to certain services changes.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the most prominent current issue aecting how designers worked.
However, other natural disasters or emergency events (e.g., oce re) could change the workplace
dynamic without warning, which could aect how projects are handled unless the designers are
supported to work remotely or from home.
Eight of our participants had issues with internet connectivity during our interviews. Although
prior work emphasized that there are always online avenues to explore to connect with disabled
people [
], we know from our study that digital designers may have internet issues that make
such solutions unreliable (see section 4.1.2). This can be exacerbated in rural locations [
], and
there is even a digital divide in the US where fewer disabled people have equal technology access
(computers, smartphones, broadband) as non-disabled people [70].
Collaboration activities may be more likely through disability organizations, but not all digital
designers are well located for physical access to these organizations. Disabled people from prior
work have emphasized that digital designers should be able to reach out to local and national
disability organizations to run evaluation sessions [
], yet, our study highlighted challenges where
digital designers are concerned about being viewed as taking advantage, and disability organizations
or disabled people may not be available in some locations. These challenges need resolving.
5.2 Recommendations
In light of our work, we propose several recommendations for increasing accessible design in a way
that can be obtainable for designers working with dierent levels of resources, workplace cultures,
and accessibility knowledge.
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:15
5.2.1 Geographical Seings. Inequalities in rural infrastructure have been ongoing issues. It seems
that the eects of fewer resources in these settings also impact the extent to which digital designers
can fully engage with accessible design.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is an excellent place to start for implementing
accessible design (the guidelines also apply broadly to digital design). Although WCAG has its
limitations in understandability [
], it is the most comprehensive accessibility resource and one
that is low cost (it is free and a primarily text-based website that downloads quickly) for designers
in rural or low resource settings who cannot easily access disabled participants for feedback. The
W3C’s Accessibility Guidelines Working Group continually works on updates, and there is an
opportunity to rene WCAG for low-resource settings further. WCAG has a customizable quick
reference guide. It could be useful to build on this with pre-made templates for the most frequent
accessibility issues, and advice for testing when working with limited resources. This would also
help minimize setup issues when digital designers have limited accessibility knowledge.
Similarly, design tools that support accessible design would also provide useful support since
one of the things designers have in common is the tools they use. Digital design tools can support
accessible design creation and evaluation. Yet, current design tools that support accessible design
creation may hide accessibility features in submenus, and the tools may oer criticized methods (e.g.,
color-blind simulations [
]) or require knowledge of third-party plugins (e.g., Stark). Regarding
evaluation tools, prior work has highlighted the potential for utilizing design and development
tools to guide accessible design [
], but often tools for automated accessibility
testing cannot identify all issues and, therefore, manual testing is still required [34, 101].
On account of the importance of user evaluations, we want to see more research into connecting
digital designers with disabled people. There has been work from the CSCW community looking
at engaging online participants within the design process [
], yet this was without a focus on
accessible design and participants with disabilities. However, there is growing related work focusing
on understanding and improving disabled people’s remote work and collaboration experiences [
]. For example, Das et al. [
] investigate how neurodivergent professionals carry out
remote work from home, with two aspects of the ndings underscoring the drawbacks of current
remote communication tools and organizational meeting practices. Since online communication is
likely the most feasible method for some designers to connect with disabled people, the methods
by which they organize and run those sessions to evaluate designs will need to meet each person’s
access needs. Moreover, additional awareness is needed in managing the potential conicts that
can arise between individual participants’ access needs during group activities [17].
Though platforms for designers to collaborate with disabled people and receive their feedback
exist (e.g., and, we found the majority of our participants were
unaware of them. Regardless, our interviews indicated that for designers in specic rural settings,
it would be dicult not only to set up in-person evaluations but also online evaluations on account
of unstable internet [
]. Prior work has demonstrated the potential benets of crowdsourcing
accessibility evaluations of a website to address insucient numbers of qualied professionals to
conduct accessibility audits [
]. This might be something under-resourced designers could explore,
depending on the cost of such services.
Governments and disability organizations should look into how they can support designers from
rural communities with opportunities to connect with disabled people. We believe this is especially
important because the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how businesses run. Nineteen of our
participants were working from home, and, for the most part, design work can occur remotely.
Designers may want to continue working from remote locations, but it will limit their ability to
conduct accessibility evaluations unless the challenges reported in our paper are addressed.
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487:16 Andrew and Tigwell
Finally, P14 acknowledges cultural dierences toward accessible design. Reecting on this, we
should consider how our expectations of accessible design apply to international designers. It seems
that designers who train in dierent countries will be exposed to dierent viewpoints on accessibility.
HCI work is often limited to the global north [
]. In the same way, we are emphasizing that
previous accessible design work has not fully engaged with how access to resources inuences
accessibility. We should also consider the socio-cultural role when we recommend how to address
the issue of inaccessible design and what we can do to make this transition ecient.
5.2.2 Maintaining a reciprocal relationship. At a minimum, getting feedback from disabled people
is a crucial part of the design process. Our participants were receptive to exploring the ideas
suggested by disabled people from prior work [
], such as approaching disability organizations
and utilizing social media platforms. However, we realized there is still much progress to be made.
First, it would be advantageous for digital designers to go through some training or education to
ensure they are prepared and do not exploit disabled user testers. Even though in our interviews
P15 (Urban, USA) said going through a disability organization just feels a little bit safer she was
conscious of how such an approach could be perceived negatively due to concerns that digital
designers may be viewed as taking advantage. P13 (Rural, USA) also raised concerns about disabled
people getting tired of being asked common questions. It suggests opportunities to provide more
guidance on how designers can approach this. To alleviate possible tensions, it would be important
to establish a system for designers to use that guides them through how to approach the topic and
possibly to provide examples of compensation options as well as making this exible so that the
company and disabled people/organization can decide how to keep both parties satised. Designers
should exhaust the use of guidelines such as WCAG rst to meet a standard level of accessibility.
Then discussions with designers can focus the conversation on more intricate questions about
accessible design.
Second, one of our participants felt that using social media platforms would be an easy and
low-cost means of making contact and suggested that disabled people make their disability status
known. Although this was in the context of a page dedicated to disabled people who would be
evaluated, the sensitivity around this topic in terms of publicly disclosing disabilities should be led
and rened by disability communities and not non-disabled people.
5.2.3 Large vs. Individual Workforce. Often, designers from larger companies have separate de-
partments that work on accessibility research and implementation. On the other hand, freelance
and self-employed designers are under-resourced. However, we nd that there is nuance among
those dierent situations—that is to say, designers in large companies can still face challenges (e.g.,
bosses who override accessible design decisions), which might not be experienced by freelance
and self-employed designers because they work alone. Although, this is not to say that accessible
design is more likely to occur among freelance and self-employed designers. Both individuals and
organizations can be motivated to implement accessible design, but various factors can make it a
Large companies are making eorts to lead with accessible design and share resources (e.g.,
Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit). We did nd that large companies oer accessibility training
or are more likely to have accessibility champions, which supports the ndings of prior work [
However, those opportunities are not reaching freelance and self-employed designers. It could be
benecial for large companies to allow freelance and self-employed designers to participate in
some capacity.
P11 (Rural, Nigeria) provided an example of a community-based solution to support local workers
in the form of space to do their jobs. This idea can be extrapolated to make for a more inclusive
and supportive network for accessible design. It might be a hard sell since larger companies will
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Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:17
not necessarily get any return. However, funding initiatives could be set up for under-resourced
designers to apply for, which can then be used to pay companies a fee. We recommend that large
companies aim to connect more with smaller, remote communities and organizations such as
Design Without Borders ( The additional benet of going this route
rather than relying on online courses is the potential to establish a long-term support network.
These experiences would likely fall under the term of community of practice [
]. Furthermore,
prior work has demonstrated the benet of online communities among related professions such as
graphic designers [
] and UX practitioners [
] for developing practice and professionalization,
thus suggesting that supporting more community-focused opportunities for accessible design
would be both advantageous and useful.
Our participants also discussed taking the client’s lead for project scope instead of exploring
negotiations for including accessibility as part of the project timeline (and cost). As highlighted
by P12, digital designers in small businesses—or even self-employed—may nd this challenging.
We may be looking at a situation where we need to increase eorts to educate clients rather than
designers about the importance and value of accessible design. In this way, we hope the client
wants accessible design to become an expected part of the project requirements when working
with digital designers.
5.2.4 Making accessibility information and support commonplace. Some of our participants did
receive formal education training toward their design career, but it was clear that accessibility is
not something guaranteed, which does corroborate prior work [
]. Technical careers often
have a learn-it-on-your-own culture [
], and we found our digital design participants were no
dierent. Three of our participants transitioned to a design career after studying for a dierent
degree. Eorts must be directed to all of the online courses and information. We acknowledge
that this would be a considerable undertaking. However, more people are taking advantage of
online resources to train for a design career, and accessibility education must be present. Perhaps
establishing an accreditation system big tech rms recognize would motivate developers of online
courses to include accessible design if it is a required component to secure accreditation.
Informational resources could also help motivate a change in perception about the return of
investment for accessible design. Some designers and organizations feel that disabled people
represent too small a population to justify potential accessible design costs. P1 (Urban, India)
said accessible design is not done because his company’s userbase does not include disabled
people. There are issues with this view for several reasons: 1 billion people worldwide have a
disability [
], planning for accessibility early in the design process will be cheaper than xing
inaccessible systems after release [
], and many nondisabled people can benet from accessible
design when experiencing situational impairments (e.g., bumpy, bright, noisy environments) [
We hope our other recommendations seeking to increase connection with disabled people and
disability organizations will also shift perceptions to the many benets of accessible design.
There are often dierent goals between the wider organization and individuals working on
tasks for the organization. These tensions can be exacerbated during remote work because there is
no shared physical location. Gutwin and Greenberg [
] explored the creation of digital systems
that could support both individual needs and workspace awareness among the team. If we are to
support designers in a way that can increase awareness about the progress of accessible design
within current projects, as well as nding way to share this with remote disabled people, then
it could be an interesting way to increase focus on accessibility at dierent levels. Prior work
has also emphasized the benets of incorporating accessibility support features within design
tools [
]. One of our participants even discussed wanting to see all design tools include
accessible checking features. However, it becomes crucial when we reect on the experiences of
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487:18 Andrew and Tigwell
some of our participants. Suppose under-resourced digital designers are unlikely to benet from or
have access to other recommendations to increase accessible design (e.g., in-person user testing).
In that case, those designers will still use standard, industry-standard design tools because those
are necessary for completing their work. Therefore, industry and researchers must improve design
tools to provide built-in guidance on accessible design.
P1 did suggest that digital designers could explore podcasts by disabled people. There are disability
podcasts (e.g., FSCast- Freedom Scientic’s ocial podcast), as well as disabled social media stars
who advocate for accessibility and explain how they use technology (e.g., Rikki Poynter
, Tommy
). These are low-cost solutions, but more eort may be needed to point designers to those
resources. Digital designers and rms could familiarize themselves with this content to inuence
change in attitudes and perceptions toward the value of accessible design.
5.3 Limitations and Future Work
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to advertise our interviews online and conduct all of the
interviews through Zoom. Some participants from rural areas had unreliable internet connections
where their voices kept breaking, or they got disconnected. Although this limited the elegance
of how those interviews were conducted, we managed those few disconnections by switching o
video feeds and turning-on live transcripts to facilitate better communication. On a more reective
note, those experiences gave us a personal insight into how challenging it would be for those digital
designers if they were to conduct online evaluations with disabled people.
Our study aimed to understand the concerns and unique challenges faced by digital designers
as mediated by design job support structures and their varying education backgrounds, and we
uncovered novel ndings. We recognize that some of our interview participants’ challenges can be
linked to the remote work constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic and may disappear when
returning to the oce. However, we want to stress that many parallels to the pandemic can be
found with other situations on both a localized or large scale, resulting in switching to remote
work (e.g., oce res and earthquakes). Therefore, our ndings could apply to digital designers
working in situations we did not come across in which they work in atypical contexts. We would
also like to explore this more in future work through a large-scale survey.
Finally, we discussed the benet of building accessibility features into design tools since all
digital designers use design tools. However, we do not know what dierences there may be for an
individual designer compared to a designer working for a large company. It is likely they could
use a similar primary tool (e.g., Sketch, Adobe XD). However, for a designer in a large company,
there are likely other collaborative tools that nd their way into the design process to support the
fast-moving workplace with multiple stakeholders and employees.
Our research showed that the contexts in which digital designers are working (i.e., their design job
support structure) and how they gain their design experience would aect their ability to fulll
accessible design requirements. Our analysis revealed that there are many nuanced factors related
to a digital designer’s workplace support structure that makes it challenging to create accessible
content. These factors must be considered so that we continue to develop solutions for increasing
accessible design that benet all designers. We expect to see an increase in accessible design if
resources are created to cater to the dierent situations of digital designers. We recommend that
1) eort is directed toward supporting designers working in dierent geographical settings, 2)
Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., Vol. 6, No. CSCW2, Article 487. Publication date: November 2022.
Mediating Factors for Accessible Design 487:19
procedures are established to guide digital designers who want to connect with disabled people
for accessibility evaluations, 3) larger companies continue to lead the eld by exploring more
opportunities to engage with freelance and self-employed digital designers so they have access
to accessibility advocates and training materials, and 4) accessibility information and support is
embedded in all types of design tools and alternative educational resources.
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