Designer playbook

Help designers define accessible experiences for everyone

How to use this playbook

Mix and match Designer KPIs to make a plan of action.

These starter plays can help you grow your organization’s commitment to accessibility.

Assumptions made

  • Ample training opportunities have been procured
  • There is an accessibility expert available to answer questions
  • Comprehensive automated testing results are being recorded
  • Some degree of manual accessibility testing capacity is available

Entry level: Create UX annotations

Begin with a singular change fostering greater collaboration between design and development.

One of the simplest ways to begin committing to accessibility is by asking for annotations to be included in UX/UI design deliverables.

When product owners ask for these annotations, it creates a market for the design team to be able to produce artifacts with this requirement.

Start small and simple

Don’t begin with complex interactions. Start with the simplest structures and attributes:

  • Headings
  • Alternative text for images

In time, you can include more complex concepts:

  • Clarify element names with aria-label
  • Custom component roles
  • Landmarks


  • Product owners
  • Design managers
  • Designers
  • Developers

Skillset required

  • Designers will need an understanding of assistive technology basics
  • Developers will need to know how to interpret the annotations

Product demos

  • End of sprint ceremonies will now include a screen reader demo of the annotations being used
  • Designers are required to attend demos

What gets measured

  • The accessibility team will also attend and monitor demos for compliance
  • If a team is failing to stay committed, investigate the root cause

Design system audit

Define the issues in the current design system and how to fix them.

Does it measure up to the Design System KPIs guide?

Start small and simple

Begin with easily measurable color contrast of headings, text, interactive components and images.

Ensure focus styles exist for any interactive component, and check those styles against all possible contexts.

Lastly, plan changes that have more widespread impact to existing pages like layout, target size and motion controls.

All of these will heavily impact the component library team, and will require updates to your code — at the very least in color and styles, and possibly in code structure.


Be certain all stakeholders understand why sweeping changes are coming to the design system.

  • Design managers
  • Designers
  • Component library team
  • Product owners

Skillset required

  • Designers will need an understanding of accessible design requirements

What gets measured

  • Issue type and severity present in audit
  • Issue type and severity present after changes

Include people with disabilities in research

Wait until your team has a solid foundational understanding of accessibility and assistive technology.

It’s easy for a team to misinterpret comments or preferences as requirements. Well intentioned designers can overcompensate for assistive technology when doing so only complexifies the experience for all customers.

People with disabilities shouldn’t be brought in to test products with known severe issues; this includes design issues.

Participants must be part of a paid exercise. This must not be foisted upon employees with disabilities as an additional expectation or upon acquaintances with disabilities as a favor.

Start with personas

Begin with alternate UX personas. For every persona your designers build stories around, create a parallel persona with a disability. This helps steer the conversation and will prompt your designers to ask your accessibility coaches great questions.

Eventual inclusion in user studies

Once the team is comfortable accounting for people with disabilities in design, now you can begin actual UX research testing of the experience.

Record the experience, capturing the facial expressions, frustrations and delights your research subjects encounter while using your product. Be certain your designers are exposed to the effect their decisions have on people.


  • UX research team
  • Procurement

Skillset required

  • Researchers and designers must deeply understand assistive technology

What gets measured

  • UX research returns qualitative data which tells a literal story
  • As experiences are redesigned and replaced, quantitative data will prove accessibility first design as a valid approach