Presented by Derek Featherstone.

Responsive does not mean accessible.

  • Parallax motion can cause physical pain to people with cognitive disabilities. These kinds of animations need to be able to be turned off by users.
  • You wouldn’t ever design a system that only accepts voice input. Always have a fallback! Example given here is Chrome’s speech-enabled text boxes. The fallback is the text box.
  • iOS’ Guided Access let’s a user lock down parts of the screen. GIves the user control over the screen and other device controls.

Needs and Wants

  • People with visual impairment need both hardware and software assistance.
  • Biggest complaint from attendees at a mobile developer conference was, “Where’s the dial tone?” Users who couldn’t see the screen wanted the audible feedback, some indication that the phone is ready to be dialed.
  • How do we design for people with mobility issues, dexterity issues, etc.?
  • Predictive text/autocorrect was originally designed for people with disabilities.
  • Some touch screens don’t respond to prosthetics (capacitive screens like on the iPhone, for instance).
  • Try using your finger, your knuckle, or your elbow to interact with touch screens. How would you change your design based on your experience?
  • For users with hearing disabilities (deafness in one ear, for instance), consider sending audio as mono instead of stereo.
  • A flashlight icon is a better indicator of search than a magnifying glass. To a user with cognitive disabilities, a magnifying glass could be interpreted as an interface to make the UI larger. A flashlight may more immediately be recognized as searching (“finding something in the dark”).
  • Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative
  • What if the mobile view of your website had dockable navigation?

Using VoiceOver

  • Apple’s Accessibility Resources
  • alt="" will hide images from screen readers. Useful for images not critical to understanding the content.
  • Build error messages into form field <label>s or programmatically connect it with aria-describedby.

Designing for Low Vision


  • Limited view = difficult to maintain context
  • Distinguishing between two similar items is tricky for someone with low vision.
  • Multiple columns
  • Placement of calls to action
  • Eye strain/fatigue

Consider proximity and pattern of use for low-vision.

  • Use “The Straw Test” to test wireframes, buildout, designs, etc. It’s a low-level simulation of what a low-vision person may experience. It’s a great starting point.

When you project accessibility needs on a design problem, you end up making the design better for everybody.

Designing for Mobility/Dexterity Issues


  • Clicking/tapping small targets
  • Controls too close together
  • Scrolling through interfaces (e.g. tall forms)
  • Fine vs. coarse movements, complex vs. simple actions (e.g. drag and drop vs. taps/clicks)

You can’t scale everything in a responsive design. It does not work.

  • How much space should be between elements in a design? Test it with real users!
  • Allow for multiple methods to achieve the same goal. Example shown used sliders with an accompanying text input to enter dollar amounts.

Challenging Responsive Design Patterns


Emulation does not cut it. You need to test on the real device.

Lost Focus Syndrome

  • Try this pattern with VoiceOver and notice the problem with focusing elements that are off-screen.

We want to avoid content that’s off-screen taking focus.

  • After moving content off-screen, use display: none so that it can’t take focus. Change display property when the content is ready to be moved back on-screen.


  • Try this site with VoiceOver and navigate the slide-out menu.
  • New content slides in and overlays existing content but focus gets retained on old content, creating confusion.

If you change the layout for something, you need to consider a change in interaction, role, source order, alt text, state, or other property.

Building Accessible Responsive Components

Viewport size is not a proxy for anything other than viewport size.


  • 19-point (or 16 pixel?) text in a form field will prevent iOS from auto zooming on focused form fields.


Some images shouldn’t be responsive.

  • Images that have content in them (e.g. screenshots) can be rendered illegible if made responsive.


  • Most current methods kill accessibility.
  • Best responsive table solution right now lets users filter out columns.