Accessible Design Principles for Visual Media

Accessibility is the technical minimum accommodation required by laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. It allows for the separation of the disabled from their abled counterparts when consuming media. It also does not integrate accessibility features into media in a manner in which fully-sensed persons can also benefit. These are the prime differentiating factors between Accessible and Universal design.

[Author: Bill Fischer]

2 people communicating through a long twisted pipe

current Status Quo

The Four core principles that digital accessibility guidelines are largely based on:

  • Perceivable - Available through sight, hearing, or touch.

  • Operable - Compatible with keyboard or mouse.

  • Understandable - Easy to comprehend.

  • Robust - Works across browsers, assistive technologies, mobile devices, old devices/browsers, etc.

Meeting Requirements

Minimum Accommodation

Accessibility is the technical minimum accommodation required by laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  • Accessible design provides one or more alternative and separate versions of media that are specifically targeted for persons with specific disabilities. They may or may not also be available for use by abled persons.

  • Though it can feel like failure when considered within the context of Universal Design goals, it is sometimes the only method available due to immediate technology, distribution or budget constraints. The important thing is to continue to strive for Universal Design while doing the best we can with the resources we have.

Multiple Modes of Access

The concept of multiple modes of access involves creating multiple means for engagement that can be accessed by persons with multiple means of sensory abilities.

  • Media creators must assess how different modes can provide a qualitatively equal experience. Comparing a VR app to a website or an instructional video to a text document or an interactive game to one on one tutoring is like comparing apples to oranges.

  • Universal Design advocate Jean Hanks likes to use the Harry Potter franchise as an example. When fans are asked which they prefer; the books or the films, the most typical response is that they are different but qualitatively equal experiences.

  • What we must do is apply our best creative and production processes within the capabilities of each medium in which we are producing.