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Accessible Design Guidelines

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Design guidelines are used to inform any decisions being made about the design. They can be used by anyone working on the project.

For the entire process

These are overarching guidelines that apply to any part of the process - whether it be outreach, the website, information resources, or support lines.

  • Intersectional by nature: Ensure that at every step of the process, intersectionality is always considered - whether it be about representation, outreach, or retention
  • Access by default: Provide access support at every step of the process, rather than have people request for accommodations
  • Design for independence and safety: For many, safety is compromised because access barriers prevent them from being completely independent. Maximize the ways people can access this process without help from others. Make sure privacy is respected at every step, and that there’s a way for users to exit or erase evidence of this process
  • Design for time flexibility: For many, being able to work on their own time means things become more accessible to them. Make sure flexibility around timing is included for all tasks required of users during this process
  • Design with awareness of power dynamics: This process sits in a system that has existing power imbalances (who has the funding? Who has influence over a decision?), so design in a way that strives to level those imbalances. Make sure relationships are always reciprocal, rather than extractive.
  • Employ those with lived experience of disability: When there is an job opportunity, employ someone who is Deaf or disabled themselves whenever possible
  • Access without reading or writing: Make sure this process is accessible to those who don’t read or write, including those who don’t use oral languages.
  • Access for rural areas: Make sure those who live in more rural areas, rather than urban centres, have a way of accessing this consulting process
  • Make the process welcoming for those who don’t consider themselves as having a disability: This can include older folks, newcomers with disabilities, or those who simply don’t identify with the language

For the website

These guidelines are specific to web design, and can be used as a north star. Some of these guidelines can also apply to any digital media, such as digital documents.

Visual and information design

  • Adjustable font size
  • Adjustable contrast
  • Clear layout for text heavy content
  • Reduce nesting pages
  • Avoid or reduce updates to the website that require people to relearn how to use and navigate the website
  • Provide options for people to use the older version of a website
  • Support text with visual elements like icons and illustrations

Interaction design

  • Avoid using time limits on forms, surveys, and other feedback gathering tools that require people to think about an idea and gather information
  • Allow for saving progress on forms, surveys, and other parts of the website that require inputting information


  • Use plain language
  • Avoid terms that are technical or jargon. If necessary, provide a definition or use a glossary
  • Be able to seek clarification for content that is unclear
  • Use language centred around harm reduction
  • Avoid acronyms or always provide a description for them
  • When presenting a large amount of information, break it down into small, manageable chunks
  • Pronouns should be an option, and be able to be changed
  • Require any video, audio, and image submitted to the site to incorporate caption, alt text, audio description, ASL depending on their type

Information Input

Ways that users can interact with, or input information into the website.

  • Voice commands
  • Text to speech
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Switch access
  • Take a picture of a form to upload it


  • Allow users to pick the language they prefer

  • Support multilingual content

  • Sign Languages such as ASL, LSQ, ISL

  • Both English and French

  • Indigenous languages and other languages

Device compatibility

  • Screen reader accessible
  • Mobile and tablet accessible

Safety considerations

  • Allow users to quickly exit the website
  • Provide instructions on how to clear their browser history
  • Minimize use of voice recognition

Alternative formats

If this consulting process were just available as a website, many people would not be able to access it. Here are some suggested alternative formats by our co-design participants.


  • Provide an offline version of the website
  • Print the website, or request materials in print
  • Provide braille version of printed material

Other accessible digital formats

  • Download an accessible version of the site (ex. Word doc)
  • Send website content as text messages or email

Support line

Have a way to get support that doesn’t require a computer or internet access.

  • Phone line
    • Video relay services that support those who use ASL, LSQ, and ISL, or have supporters who themselves use ASL, LSQ, and ISL
    • Minimize use of phone trees/triaging with too many options
  • Text messaging
Skills of supporters
  • Have different language interpretation available
  • Have expertise in working with newcomers, or are aware of their specific needs
  • Know how to describe a screen
  • Know how to use different pronouns, and avoid misgendering and assuming pronouns