An introduction to accessible design

Not everyone is talking about accessible design. But they should be. This article provides an introduction to accessible design concepts and links to more information.

The following are just a few of many ideas that will get you thinking about taking on a broader, more thorough accessibility review.

Making print accessible

Accessible design for print is about clear messages – making sure that your readers understand what you’re saying.


People’s perception of colour can be affected by specific visual ailments, the environment or injury. While colour blindness impacts a certain portion of the population, the contrast between colour hues affects everyone.

It may now be a little passé, but do you remember the blue dress meme? If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s time to review issues such as contrast and colour.


“Big letters” are important but it goes much further than that. In the corporate world today, the majority of accessibility discussions around fonts focus on kerning (the space between letters) and leading (the space between lines), as these have a dramatic impact on print legibility. So, avoid complicated fonts. Choose fonts with recognizable letters and don’t overcrowd your copy,.


This is a slightly more abstract idea than colour and font. Hierarchy is about the organization and prioritization of content in the overall structure of your document.

When attempting to improve hierarchy, designers often increase header size, add subheads and create bullets (where possible). Hierarchy is incredibly important in web design as well, which we’ll get to next.

Making web design accessible

While the three concepts above also apply to the web, accessible web design is about clear navigation – making sure your visitors can find the information they need. Here are two ideas that are a little more specific to the web.


Content must be intuitive. Your visitors should be able to predict specific elements, such as navigation, on each page.


People must be able to access and navigate through content no matter what tools they use to do so, from a mouse to a keyboard, as well as voice recognition.

A note on AODA

When it comes to web design, accessibility goes beyond look and feel. You need to develop your website according to accessibility principles.

Although the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) currently applies to companies with 50 or more employees, we think investment firms of all sizes should think seriously about incorporating AODA principles into their next redesign.

Examples of AODA best practices include:

  • Do not add content through Cascading Style Sheet (“CSS”) because it may be inaccessible to screen readers
  • Tag PDFs so that they’re accessible to screen readers
  • Add ALT attributes to IMG elements in your HTML

Links for more info on accessible design

There’s a lot more to say about accessible design. Check out these sources for all the info you need:

Contact us at 416.925.1700, 844.243.1830 or to start making your print and web design more accessible.

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