How to Use Design Thinking for Accessibility

Design Thinking for Accessibility Associations Now January/February 2018 Issue

Accessible design enables people with disabilities to engage with digital products and services. Brightfind CEO Frank Klassen explains how associations can use design thinking principles to accommodate these users’ unique needs.

Why should associations keep digital accessibility top of mind?

One in five people in the United States has some sort of accessibility issue, such as a hearing or visual impairment. If associations can make digital experiences more accessible, then there is a greater possibility of increasing market penetration. That seems like a real incentive to keep accessibility top of mind.

It is also important, as organizations embrace design thinking as the underlying framework for creating and delivering new products and services, that they make sure to include participants who have accessibility issues.

What does it mean to apply design thinking to meet accessibility needs?

Design thinking embraces seven core principles for participants: user-centric, collaborative, iterative, holistic, optimistic, experimental, and experiential. As you think about each of these principles, you can easily imagine how accessibility can impact each one. For example, accessibility is a very user-centric concept—it embraces all users, including those with disabilities.

Accessibility is also predicated on the idea that everyone should have an opportunity to benefit from a product or service. We should make sure that each digital experience is, in fact, a positive and useful experience for all circumstances and audience characteristics.

Where do you see opportunities for associations to improve or grow?

Design thinking is all about building products and services optimized to meet the needs of all constituents. Associations can improve the value of existing products and services by keeping in mind specific constituents and their needs. If growth is a key element of your strategic plan, then associations should embed accessibility into the membership value proposition equation.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Design Thinking for Accessibility."]