Accessible graphic design

The text box reads Graphic design can be described as the language of vision but is this exclusionary in nature?

Graphic design is an essential element of communication.

Pictures, photos, infographics, icons – they all convey messages. It is often said that images say more than words. A bar graph gives a visual representation of statistics making it easier to understand. A photo of a landscape in a tourist brochure piques interest in a place. Readily recognised icons send instant messages, such as this is a train station or this is a toilet.

The way text is presented also sends messages. For example, a tiny faint font sends the message to people with low vision that they are not included. A busy page with tightly compressed text is readable but uncomfortable.

Images and text are essential elements in visual communication. The importance of accessible and inclusive communication is the subject of a masters thesis from Canada. The title is, Equitable access to public information and the role of the graphic designer. The author is Christine Woolley.

The text reads, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure people with disabilities can access information on an equal basis with others.

When graphic designers consider accessibility and inclusivity in their work, the result is a better experience for all…

Woolley’s research explores how graphic designers learn about, interpret and implement accessibility standards into practice. She used participatory research methods, often referred to as co-design. The outcome is a framework and a set of recommendations for supporting the graphic design industry in Canada.

The thesis discusses many aspects of accessible and inclusive design, and it’s role in equitable access to public information. Woolley has three main pillars of discussion.

  • Understanding the importance of access – the moral angle
  • Understanding industry standards and guidelines – the responsibility angle
  • Understanding accessibility legislation – the legal angle

The text reads, inclusive design recognizes people as individuals who are not all the same and prioritizes the needs of individuals who are often not acknowledged in current systems.

The framework and recommendations were designed through a collaborative process with participants and represent a collective need for industry support.


The findings identify opportunities on how the design industry can be supported in their accessible design journey, and in building capacity and motivation to go beyond the minimum requirements, to think critically about accessible design and pursue opportunities for innovation.


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