Four design strategies to prevent most accessibility issues


Presented at 9:15am in Governors Square 10 on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.



  • Nora Stern, Senior Digital Accessibility Engineer, Optum
  • Lori Neff, Senior Digital Accessibility Engineer, Optum

Session Details

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


Considering four behaviors as part of the design process, accessibility becomes part of the software development life cycle from the get-go. These behaviors are: 1) Define page structures 2) Understand Color and Contrast 3) Help everyone understand images 4) Document three aspects of an element

We’ll discuss how design deliverables can become an active participant in the prevention of accessibility issues, leveraging our expertise in accessibility, design and project coordination.


Many roles depend on visual design documentation for a good product. Mockups clarify and resolve questions, and communicate complex information. A talented designer can create design deliverables that are able to be consumed by almost everyone; from stakeholder to researcher, to business analyst to developer to QA.

This presentation includes the benefits of the four design behaviors to your team, and the four design behaviors themselves, as well as how to document them:

1) Define page structures 2) Understand Color and Contrast 3) Help everyone understand images 4) Document three aspects of an element

Going through the list of WCAG criteria, 75 to 80 percent of those criteria are related to design. Being that design deliverables are a pivotal part of a project, and that design is related to a large portion of WCAG criteria, the design phase is essentially a huge opportunity to prevent accessibility issues.

Rather than listing all of the accessibility criteria related to design, it's important to be able to be quickly effective. Since it's not feasible to learn all of accessibility in a short time, it's important to focus on what will have the most impact. Here are four behaviors for designers which can help address up to 50% of accessibility issues. These four basic behaviors constitute a good beginning for a designer on their accessibility journey. Now they don't have to remember a large number of success criteria. They only have to start with these four behaviors.


  1. 75-80% of WCAG checkpoints are related to design. Add design behaviors to prevent accessibility issues.
  2. The power of shifting left is emphasized with design behaviors to include accessibility from the get-go.
  3. Four behaviors related to design are a good way for designers to account for accessibility.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Nora Stern

Nora joined Optum as a Senior Digital Accessibility Engineer after a career in teaching and course design. Nora earned a Master of Arts, Information and Learning Technologies at the University of Colorado. She developed and facilitated online and face-to-face web accessibility training for staff related to web authoring and Adobe and Microsoft accessibility.

Lori Neff

Lori Neff, she/her/hers, CPACC

Lori is an accessibility engineer with Optum, with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry. Her goal is to help people understand that accessibility is an opportunity, not an obstacle. She uses her background in user experience to enrich how she approaches accessibility, and how she collaborates with other roles. Lori's accessibility journey has included working in the hearing device industry, as well as health care. Her personal experience with disabilities is in the "invisible" category, and includes chronic pain and a related neurological impairment.