A Guide for Accessible Design

By Michael J. Young RGDDesign Lead at The Ontario Cabinet Office




Accessibility for Everyone (also available as an audiobook) and Color Accessibility Workflows are two books by A Book Apart written to help designers get up to speed quickly.
AccessAbility 2: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design If you've stumbled on this resource list, but haven't read the RGD's own accessibility handbook, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The digital copy of the book has nearly twice the content of the print version, so be sure to download the PDF.
Enabling Access Through Web Renewal was written by the Wilfred Laurier University with support from the Government of Ontario. Even though its target audience is large public sector organizations, it's a book that I recommend frequently because it does a good job of explaining both technical and philosophical aspects of accessibility using plain language. Intent designed this resource back in 2015 and wrote a case study about their process.
Do Good Design: How Design Can Change Our World by David Berman RGD, book on ethics and the power of design is incredibly inspirational. David is an international speaker and expert on accessibility, so the book is peppered with examples of assistive technology and universal design, but the main theme of the text is our responsibility as designers to design a better future. It’s a compelling manifesto to set our sights high and design our projects and our careers in such a way that everyone benefits.
The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places by David Gibson is an introduction to environmental graphic design. It covers a lot of the major principles of accessibility and usability that show up in other areas of communication design. This book covers planning, typography, iconography, colour contrast and other topics that are foundational for designing for accessibility.
I haven't yet had a chance to read The Conscious Creative: Practical Ethics for Purposeful Work by Kelly Small RGD, but it's on my reading list and I can't wait to dive into it.

Web Accessibility

A11y Coffee is a great introduction to web accessibility basics and testing methods and software.
No Coffee impaired vision simulator, a Google Chrome extension allows you to simulate websites (or other content in Chrome tabs) as if you had various vision difficulties. Although it's no substitute for real user testing, it's a helpful and eye-opening way to adjust and refine your designs.
Web Accessibility in Mind is an outstanding resource for creating accessible websites and web content. While the official WCAG website is the authoritative source for the WCAG Priorities and Success Criteria, WebAIM makes the guidelines much simpler to understand, providing additional clarification and plain language examples. They also offer tools such as their online colour-contrast checker and the fantastic WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation tool and Chrome extension.
The Ultimate guide to writing alt-text does exactly what it says on the tin.


When it comes to accessibility, there is always a lot of confusion around fonts and typography.
“Should we avoid serif fonts?” (and other myths of accessible typography) is a great article for designers and non-designers alike that covers many myths and provides practical advice.
Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces? A review of 50 empirical studies on typeface accessibility is for those looking for research regarding legibility. Alex Poole's summary of 50 studies is particularly helpful.


There are dozens of apps and websites for checking and validating colour contrast. Some of my favourites are: 
Colour and Colour Palette links at Designresources.party is an excellent list of resources and its colour section is no exception with many accessible palettes and tools.
Colour Contrast Analyzer is a free app for Mac and Windows allows you to eye-drop any colours on your screen and see their contrast ratio and whether that colour combination passes WCAG guidelines and at which type size. I mostly use this app when sending screenshots to clients, as it shows the WCAG levels and is from a reputable source.
Contraste for Mac is the colour contrast app I use all the time when I'm designing. It's tiny, super easy to use and looks great. The app only displays results for regular-sized text, but you can use the numerical contrast ratio for large text, icons and UI elements. Couleurs is a similar companion app by the same developer.

Accessible PDFs and documents


Ryerson University open textbook Understanding Document Accessibility
is a fantastic and open-source reference guide for making documents accessible. It includes Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Apple's iWork apps, Open Office as well as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat.
Creating Accessible PDFs a Lynda.com five-hour course of video training that will teach you how to repair or remediate inaccessible PDFs and create Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Office or InDesign. The Toronto Public Library system offers free access to Lynda.com training.
PAC 3 Accessibility Checker and TaggedPDF.com address a major part of creating accessible PDFs, which is checking them for errors. The PAC 3 Accessibility Checker is the industry standard checker, but the error messages aren't always clear. That's where TaggedPDF.com comes in, providing explanations and instructions for resolving all the errors that will inevitably happen.
Michael is a Toronto-based designer with over 10 years of experience in the design industry. He helps public and private sector organizations create attractive designs that are AODA compliant and user-friendly.