How to integrate designing for accessibility with service design in 7 Steps

Author: Eileen Boerner

Designing for accessibility can often be discouraging and seem like a black box, with several questions looming. How do I start? How to estimate the effort without ex-perience? How to integrate accessibility within the software development process? And on top, there is rarely anyone to relate to for best practices or guidance. Making your team fit for designing for accessibility with Service Design might be the step in the right direction.

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, the significance of Diversity and Inclusion has garnered increasing attention. However, the actual implementation of these principles often lags behind – particularly in long-standing projects where accessibility considerations have been overlooked. Such oversights become apparent during accessibility testing, uncovering a multitude of bugs that prove challenging to rectify when teams lack familiarity with accessibility design. This situation poses an important question: How can one effectively embark on the journey of accessibility transformation for a digital application project that has already undergone years of development without considering accessibility requirements?

What is Service Design?

In the run-up to the conception of a digital service, designers rely on user-centred research in the context of service design in order to question the problem.

This approach takes place before the traditional development process and focuses on the holistic user experience and integration of services. The focus is not only on the technical implementation, but also on taking into account the needs and requirements of the users in order to create innovative and user-friendly solutions.


“Service Design is the activity of planning and organizing a business’s resources (people, props, and processes) in order to (1) directly improve the employee’s experience, and (2) indirectly, the customer’s experience.”

Why is accessible service design so important?

Integrating accessibility within the Service Design approach is essential for creating inclusive digital experiences. By considering accessibility requirements from the start, it ensures equal access for individuals with disabilities and diverse needs. Following established guidelines like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG, 2023) provides a reliable framework for building accessible systems. Taking this proactive approach helps identify and address potential barriers early on, resulting in a seamless and inclusive user experience.

“Accessibility is a team effort.”
IBM Accessibility, 2023

How to Integrate Designing for Digital Accessibility in 7 Steps


1. Incorporate accessibility within the product/service goal

Incorporating accessibility within the product or service goal is a worthwhile endeavor as it establishes accessibility as a fundamental component of the project’s moral standards. By making accessibility an integral part of the project’s overarching objectives, it prompts crucial conversations and highlights the ethical importance of ensuring equal access for all users. This proactive approach emphasizes the commitment to inclusivity and serves as a driving force for prioritizing accessibility throughout the project’s lifecycle.


2. Offer a comprehensive repository of accessible resources

Ensuring accessible knowledge is readily available for all stakeholders involved in the project is of paramount importance. To facilitate this, it is beneficial to compile a comprehensive repository of accessible resources, including links, presentations, guidelines, and videos that cover general accessibility specifications, best practices, and relatable examples. An invaluable addition to any team is an accessibility expert who can leverage their past experience and effectively disseminate knowledge to designers, developers, and testers. By offering accessible knowledge in this manner, teams can enhance their understanding of accessibility requirements and successfully incorporate them into their work, ultimately fostering the creation of more inclusive digital experiences.


3. Reconsider potential efforts for accessibility work during planning

Considering color contrast and text legibility requires additional effort during the product design process. It is crucial to incorporate these considerations into the project planning, spanning design, development, and testing tasks. By acknowledging the need for gradual updates, the application can be improved iteratively, ensuring that color contrast and text definitions meet accessibility standards. This proactive approach ensures that accessibility enhancements are integrated seamlessly, enhancing the overall usability and inclusivity of the product.


4. Cover accessibility aspects within design definitions

Incorporating accessibility aspects within design definitions is a crucial step in the design process. It involves the task of gradually adding descriptions of accessibility behaviors to the design system, component by component. It is important to approach this task with confidence and not be intimidated. Starting with the most frequently used components and gradually moving to the less used ones, designers can include essential information such as color codes, screen reader definitions, resizing behaviors, and dark mode appearances. By systematically covering these accessibility details, designers can ensure that the design system is inclusive and caters to diverse user needs, ultimately enhancing the overall accessibility and usability of the product.


5. Integrate accessible behaviour as part of the development tasks

By including accessibility requirements as part of the acceptance criteria, teams can prioritize and track the implementation of accessible features. Additionally, it is essential to consider platform-specific technical features with each new development task. Different platforms may have specific accessibility guidelines and requirements, and developers should take them into account to ensure compatibility and adherence to accessibility standards. By consistently integrating accessible behavior and platform considerations into the development process, teams can create products that are inclusive, usable, and accessible to a wide range of users.


6. Test every new product aspect for accessibility

During the testing phase, it is of utmost importance to thoroughly test the accessibility features alongside standard feature behaviors and edge cases, such as error messages. The accessibility functionalities, including screen reader compatibility and keyboard support, should be integrated into the standardized test steps. This means that bugs related to accessibility should be identified, documented, and treated with the same level of attention as other functional issues.


7. Get direct feedback for your product/service

Continuously seeking feedback from users and clients is vital for improving the product incrementally. By actively engaging with users and clients throughout the development process, teams can gather valuable insights and identify areas for enhancement. This iterative approach allows for a step-by-step improvement of the product based on real-world feedback and user needs. Feedback can be collected through user testing sessions, surveys, interviews, or regular communication channels. By incorporating this feedback loop into the development cycle, teams can make informed decisions, prioritize features, and make continuous improvements to deliver a product that meets and exceeds user expectations.

Embracing accessibility design step by step is a transformative journey that leads to a stronger team and a more robust product. By adopting an accessible Service Design approach, the product becomes not only inclusive for people experiencing barriers but also enhances the overall user experience in every situation. It is crucial to approach accessibility-related themes without reservations and integrate them into our daily work. By doing so, we can collectively contribute to creating a more inclusive and accessible. 



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