Design Systems for Accessible Accessibility


Presented at 9:15am in Lakehouse on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.



  • Jiatyan Chen, Online Accessibility Program Manager, Stanford University
  • Greg Hanek, Accessibility Architect, Indiana University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Take a look at how universities may make accessibility easier to operationalise and scale using design systems. We will showcase a few open source design systems and discuss how thoughtfully constructed design systems and pattern libraries will minimise accessibility and design issues.


Universities are creators to thousands of websites, with the responsibility delegated to thousands of departmental and unit staff who usually has insufficient web nor accessibility knowledge. The decentralised nature of work means that many sites will unwittingly incur different accessibility and design debt as our designers, developers and content authors separately spin up their sites.

Given that these sites usually require similar branding and styling, as well as meeting compliance standards such as accessibility, privacy and security, a design system helps create efficiency and compounds the ROI when we operationalise site development, messaging, and asset management.

We will share our stories in the design and development of our open source design systems, and cover our adoption strategies and lessons learnt.


  1. A design system is a flexible document which combines rules of narration, visuals and interaction.
  2. Used correctly, a design system maintains (accessibility) quality and consistency at scale.
  3. The design and use of a design system increases cross-organisation collaboration and synergy

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Other, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Jiatyan Chen

Jiatyan Chen is the Stanford Online Accessibility Program (SOAP) Manager, providing directions and resources to improve the accessibility and usability of Stanford's websites and courses. She has experience in web, course, and interactive media design and production. Her interests are usability, problem solving, learning and leadership, and she has a background in computer science and digital media arts.

Greg Hanek

Greg is Indiana University’s (digital) Accessibility Architect, working in the User Experience Office. He has been passionate about accessibility and helping others learn about it for more than two decades at IU. He’s currently helping create a culture where making usable things for all humans is a default.