A lot of graphic designers aren’t thinking about accessibility. But there are many benefits for not just the end users or readers. There are actually benefits for you as a logo designer, print designer or web designer. Find out 8 reasons designers should care about accessibility.
In this episode of Design Domination, I’m getting into why designers should care about accessibility.
You probably have already heard me talk a lot about accessibility. You may be very interested in it and already doing it.
On the other hand, maybe you’re in the camp of not doing anything with accessibility. You might be like, “Oh my gosh, Colleen. Are you talking about accessibility again?!” If that’s the case, please hear me out.
A lot of logo designers, graphic designers and web designers aren’t thinking about accessibility. Maybe you’re intimidated by it. Maybe you think it doesn’t apply to your clients or place of work, especially if it’s not a legal requirement.
There are many benefits for not just the end users or readers. There are actually benefits for you. There are benefits for your clients or place of work, but those also benefit you.
I’ve got 8 huge reasons why designers should care about accessibility.
Accessibility Benefits for Designers
1. Accessibility positions you as an expert.
Accessibility positions you as an expert—and you don’t have to know everything about it to get that benefit either.
Accessibility has been around for decades, and it isn’t going away. It’s been getting more attention over the past few years because of the website accessibility lawsuits. You have a unique opportunity right now to lead your clients or your place of work in this conversation, in this process.
Accessibility gives you a special area of expertise that 99% of designers don’t have. You can apply this expertise to design in any form—logo design, document design, publication design, web design, package design—any type of design.
You may already be advising them on design and branding issues. But, also, as a design expert, you should be the one to bring up accessibility. If you don’t bring it up and they bring it up later, it could put your expertise into question. They may wonder why you didn’t say anything about it.
Even if you don’t know how to do accessibility, letting them know it’s a thing helps them—and they’re paying you to be that expert that helps them.
Just ask if the work needs to be accessible. If they say no, you can explain more about how it can help them.
If they say yes, it does, and you don’t know how to do it, you at least know where to go to get help. I provide that as a service and I teach this to designers. But there are others out there who can help as well. So you won’t be at a loss—and you’ll still be seen as a helpful expert.
If you decide to learn how to do it later, at least you’ve already started that conversation, planted the seed. You were the one who told them about it. You will be remembered for that if they decide to go ahead with it.
2. Accessibility gives you confidence.
The second reason you should care about accessibility as a designer is that accessibility gives you confidence. Sure, it helps you be perceived as an expert.
But when you know your clients can go work with any other designer or you’re interviewing for a job and the competition is high, you’re not necessarily confident. You don’t know what sets you apart, and neither do they. Or you find it hard to understand why you’re unique.
Having accessibility as a skill is like having an ace up your sleeve.
It’s a key differentiator—at least right now, while so few people know how to do it.
3. Accessibility can help you win more work.
Another benefit is that accessibility can help you win more work. The confidence certainly contributes to that.
Since getting into accessibility, it has been my own personal experience that it’s been 10 times easier to get new work, especially from new clients. I have had clients come to me from all over the world—not just the U.S. but also the U.K., Australia and even Indonesia.
I win almost every project I estimate, and that was not the case in the past. In fact, I found it hard to get work from new clients.
Many of my students have also won more projects after bringing up the topic of accessibility. One of my students won two website projects back to back easily, just by having the conversation.
Accessibility also helps you stand out from all the other designers out there. Most of them don’t know anything about accessibility, so they aren’t bringing it up. You will change the conversation, which can instantly shut out 99% of your competition.
On another note, if you want to do any work for a government or any organization that gets federal funding, you will need to know accessibility. It is a requirement of the U.S. government at least. It’s also been that way for some projects I’ve worked on for county governments.
It may be a requirement for other governments as well. So that opens up new opportunities for you.
4. Accessibility lets you easily charge more.
Another benefit for designers is that accessibility lets you easily charge more.
Let me be clear: I didn’t get into accessibility because I saw a financial opportunity, the reason some companies have gotten into it. Not at all.
Accessibility has become a hot topic over the past few years, especially web accessibility. But I got into this in 2016, before all that. I had no idea what accessibility was before then.
I thought, OK, this will be an added service I can offer if clients ask for it. I’ll see how it goes. I didn’t know it was going to blow up.
I also liked that the work I was doing was being inclusive. It wasn’t alienating people by default. I was serving nonprofits—not like the NFL-type of nonprofits either—but nonprofits doing good work.
So I got into it for the right reasons.
As I said earlier, accessibility is a specialized area of expertise. When you have that, you can charge more.
A lot of designers find it hard to charge more as it is. They lack confidence. They undervalue their work. They find it hard to justify their rates to clients. They think, “Will they or won’t they like my pricing?” as opposed to, “This is my pricing.”
Your pricing should end in a period, not a question mark. It’s not open to discussion.
I think—from my own experience at least—that it’s because graphic designers find it harder to justify their pricing to themselves first.
When you can’t justify the pricing in your own mind, it’s even harder to justify it to clients.
It will come across to clients as a lack of confidence (like “Can this designer really do this work?”) or that you’re just trying to get as much money as you can from them.
On the other hand, when you’re more confident about the expertise you’re providing and how it helps your clients, it’s so much easier to believe that yourself and that will come across.
It’s like you now have more tangible proof of the benefits. You’re more sure about the benefits of your work. So now you have proof. You can believe your worth.
That gives you the confidence to say, “Yes, I know my work will help you much more. I understand and believe in the value of that,” and then you charge accordingly for that additional value. Your price is your price. It’s not up for debate.
5. Accessibility gives your work more value.
Speaking of value, accessibility gives your work more value.
Time and money
First off, you save your clients or place of work time and money by incorporating accessibility best practices. If it’s an afterthought and implemented later on, it will be more costly. That’s because the design process needs to be revisited, and other work usually needs to be redone.
I usually hear from other designers or creative agencies at the end of the process, after their client has approved the design. They say, “Here’s my file/website. Make it accessible.”
A lot of times when I am remediating documents, I have to change colors. I may have to add colors. I may have to change the design to get certain colors to work together. I sometimes have to redo the document setup.
The client is never happy about that. This is adding time to the timeline, and it’s costing them more money because now I am going back and revisiting the design process all over again.
That design you sold them on that they loved may now look very different.
So if you bring up accessibility from the start when designing, you’re saving them additional time and money that would otherwise need to be spent if it’s done later.
Accessibility is also good for the reputation of the business or organization. Most people won’t notice something is accessible, but they will notice if it isn’t because they may not be able to read the text, make out hyperlinks, understand the graphics, or get around the document or website.
If someone reading the document or using the website can do that, it will leave a positive impression. But also, they will tell others, so there will be good word of mouth.
6. Accessibility makes you a more efficient designer.
Accessibility makes you a more efficient designer.
When you implement technical accessibility practices when you’re designing documents, you’re using the software properly. You’re using styles and built-in automated features wherever possible. That means less manual work. You get a lot done more quickly. This time savings compounds when you’re working on large documents.
For example, you could add a separate frame with a background behind some text, which you’d have to move and reposition every single time that text reflowed. Tedious, right? Or you could simply use a paragraph style that has paragraph shading turned on.
You could spend time creating a table of contents by hand, or you could use the built-in table of contents feature to generate one and then update it if needed.
With web design, it means you’re using the proper code for tags and using CSS for styling.
7. Accessibility makes you a better designer.
Accessibility makes you a better designer. That means your work gets better results.
As graphic designers, we are designing for the purpose of communicating. That gets lost when we don’t consider all individuals.
When you incorporate accessibility practices into your documents and websites, you help your clients reach more people, which could potentially be 20% more people, maybe more.
Accessibility is just the right thing to do.
You probably take great care in what you design. Don’t you want your work to be seen and understood by more people, especially if your clients or place of work are looking to make a difference?
When your work gets better results, it helps your clients or place of work. When that happens, you get good testimonials. Testimonials carry a lot of weight. Good testimonials help you get more clients and charge more.
If you build websites, designing accessible websites means that those sites could rank higher in search engine results than ones that aren’t accessible. That’s because they use proper code that conveys meaning to search engines.
But they usually also have leaner code, and that means Google will give the site a boost in search engine results pages.
The other thing is time on the website. People searching may stay on the site longer because they came across more relevant content in those search results.
8. Accessibility gives you opportunities for recurring revenue.
Accessibility gives you unique opportunities for recurring revenue. That could be on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis.
If you’re doing anything with websites or apps, the ongoing frequency could vary depending on how often they get updated. The more often they get updated, the more frequently clients could benefit from having you check their website or app for accessibility issues.
This could mean checking and fixing their page content—text, images, audio and video.
It could mean checking plugin functionality for accessibility issues, especially if they go and install plugins themselves. It could be checking the site’s code, if they have an in-house developer or they like to tinker with it themselves.
It could be implementing different phases of accessibility over time. If clients can’t afford to do all remediation work at one time, it can be done in phases.
This work doesn’t apply only to websites. It could be remediating their documents over time.
So these are my 8 reasons that designers should care about accessibility.
I had to share these with you because:
- Design is all about communicating, not just creating something that looks good.
- Accessibility has done so much for my business, and I am always trying to help you with yours, whether that’s sharing what’s worked or what hasn’t worked for me in the past. I certainly didn’t expect that accessibility would have such a positive effect on my business.
If you want to learn more about design and accessibility, check out my Accessible Branding & Design course.
You can also download my free accessibility guides.