Creating learning that is accessible takes more than checking the box at the end of a project

Sarah Davis
Experience Designer
Intentional planning in the initial phases of a project and throughout can make learning engaging and accessible to everyone.
June 7, 2023

Intentional planning in the initial phases

My journey to learning more about disabilities and the need for accessibility in learning

“You can’t do that, it’s not accessible.”

I had just come up with a super engaging learning experience and this was the reaction I got from a stakeholder. Externally I told the stakeholder I understood and asked for suggestions on how to update the experience to ensure it was accessible to all audiences. Internally, I was annoyed.Did I really have to adjust the entire experience for a handful of people? I took this reaction back to my manager who quickly checked my privilege. And this is when I decided it was time to find out more about accessibility and why it is so important.

There were three key things that I did to find out more a bout the diverse learning needs.

  1. I researched disabilities
  2. I talked to people with disabilities
  3. I have a child with a disability and paid attention to his needs

And this is what I learned.

Some key facts:

Armed with these facts, I decided it was time to talk to people living with disabilities. And that was even more eye opening.

One person I met with talked about how people often think they are being accommodating, but in reality the accommodations made them feel infantile. Offering to carry a grown adult up a flight of stairs was not the help they were looking for. Instead, meeting in a place where everyone could enter through the same door was much more respectful.

Another person explained to me that they were unable to differentiate between colors. That meant that they couldn’t understand infographics that portrayed information using only colors.

And as I was sharing this information with a member of my own team, she told me about the struggle she has had with her vision and the fear she has of partially losing her vision permanently and still being able to do her job. She has added additional monitors to her workstation so that she can work with increased font sizes.

Perhaps the most impactful event that occurred during my journey to learning more about disabilities was the Autism and ADHD diagnosis of one of my children. With the diagnosis (and before) came the need to make a lot of adjustments in our family and social life in order for my child to reach his full potential. He plays great with other kids, but sometimes he needs a little bit extra scaffolding so that it is a great experience for everyone. Heal so has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) at school that provides the support and services that he needs to be successful in an educational setting.The accommodations that we’ve made and that the school has made are helping to set my child up for success.

My journey to learning more about disabilities and the need for accessibility in learning landed me firmly in the “Everything needs to be accessible” camp. But I still felt annoyed with the “you can’t do that, its not accessible” response. Instead, I set out to find a way to make learning engaging AND accessible for EVERYONE.

Doing so requires intentional planning in the initial phases of a project and throughout, rather than addressing it at the end to check a box. When this is done well (which we do) it benefits all learners, not just learners with disabilities.


Fact sheet on Persons with Disabilities (United Nations Enable)

DisabilityImpacts All of Us Infographic (CDC)

WhatIs an Invisible Disability? Why Invisible Disabilities Matter (

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