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Designing for Accessibility

Tips, tricks for Universal Design, Design for All

Everyone will experience limitations in accessibility at some point in their life.

Disabilities are barriers that occur when this is a mismatch between the interaction of a person's body with life situations.

The World Health Organization uses disability as an umbrella term to cover:

  • impairments
  • activity limitations
  • participation restrictions
Handicapped pictogram.


A person in a wheelchair has an obvious, visible disability.

In fact, it is the international symbol of access.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Wheelchair in motion icon.

The Accessible Icon

There are efforts to update that symbol. MOMA has already added the Accessible Icon to its permanent collection.

Not all disabilities are visible.

Not All Disabilities Are Visible

However, there are many types of disabilities.

Image: Ellen From Now On

Disability Awareness Month logo with symbols for different types of disabilities arranged in a circe.

Types of Disabilities

They are often categorized by limitations with

  • sight
  • hearing
  • movement
  • thinking

Image: University of Omaha
Also, check out the 2019 Disability Awareness Month and Observance Calendar.

Visual Impairment Icon.


  • Blindness
  • Low Vision
  • Color Blindness

Image: Global Reach

Hearing impairment icon.


  • Deafness
  • Hearing Loss

Image: Global Reach

Motor impairment icon.

Physical or Motor

  • Damage of Limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Tremor
  • Muscle Pain or Stiffness

Image: Global Reach

Cognitive impairment icon.


  • Attention Deficit
  • Memory Deficit
  • Problem Solving Deficit
  • Learning Disabilities

Image: Global Reach

Grid comparing similar disabilities in context.

Disabilities Are Context Dependent


  • Legally blind
  • Aging


  • Broken leg
  • Recovering from a concussion


  • Looking at a phone screen in bright sunlight
  • Watching a video without headphones

Image: Microsoft Inclusive 101 Toolkit | View larger version

Compares examples of one-armed limitations.

Comparing Similar Disabilities in Context

Examples where a person is limited to using only one arm:

  • Permanent: Have one arm
  • Temporary: Have a broken arm
  • Situational: New parent carrying baby with one arm

Image: Microsoft Inclusive 101 Toolkit

Accessibility preferences icon.

Accessibility Preferences

Look for this type of icon to get to a device's or web site's accessibility information.

Image: WikiProject Accessibility

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