01 – Visual Design + Accessibility

by | Dec 20, 2020

‘Disability is part of the human condition’

According to WHO about 15% people (roughly 1 billion) lives with some form of disability. Almost everyone will experience some form of disability at some point in their life. 

Graphic source Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit Activities
Graphic source Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit Activities

The definition of disability has shifted in the recent decades from the ‘medical’ to ‘social’ model, which in long term resulted in vocabulary and mindset switch. For example –  ‘person with disability’ as a recommended phrase (not paraplegic, not blind, not schizophrenia), also, the fact that people are disabled by society rather than by their bodies.

Two definitions, first by the United Nations and second by the World Health Organisation, are focused on people with impairments and their interaction with and participation in society.

‘Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’

United Nations

“Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.”

World Health Organization

A range of documents developed internationally stated that disability is a human rights issue. In conjunction with the social model of understanding disability, the government responsibility for modifying external conditions has been widely enhanced and covers the access to medical help, education, interactions, social life and so on. 

My special attention within this project is given to people with visual impairment and their interactions with digital products.

The impairment

Globally, at least 1 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.

Amblyopia, also called lazy eye, is a disorder of sight in which the brain fails to process inputs from one eye, it results in decreased vision in the lazy eye. It is estimated that amblyopia affects roughly 3% of the global population.

Horizontal nystagmus

Nystagmus is a condition of involuntary (or voluntary, in some cases) eye movement, Nystagmus has an incidence rate of at least 1 in 1,000 people in the general population

Strabismus types
Strabismus types

Problem definition – A person with both conditions can experience difficulty in perceiving information on the mobile phone. Additional physical effort may be required to interact with digital products.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Accessibility in design means that the final product will allow people with disabilities to equally perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to it.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet, published Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for the first time in 1999, the concept evolved and the newest version that was published in October 2012 (WCAG 2.1) became a W3C recommendation in June 2018.

The four principles around which each country determines the acceptable levels (A, AA, AAA) of compliance for digital products are:

DESIGN PRINCIPLES: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust

This project aim is to research and recommend solutions for an app which will allow a better perception of the text content within it (Guideline 1.4: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.) and ultimately lower the physical effort necessary to perceive the information. (Universal Design Principles)

Principle 4 -The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities by use of different modes, contrast and increased legibility. (please provide graphic)

Principle 6 – The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. It allows the user to maintain a neutral body position and minimise physical effort. (please provide graphic)

There are many social aspects which can be modified to accommodate the needs of people with the above impairments. This project is dedicated to online interactions and focuses on barriers which can be created in the digital design process. Those barriers can potentially lead to the discrimination of people with visual impairments preventing them from participation in the interactions taking place in the digital world.


By Sebastian Hartleib