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Play 7: Integrate accessibility needs into requirements and design processes

We must begin technology projects by identifying the needs of people with disabilities who use and support the technology, and account for the ways the technology will fit into their lives. We must understand their preferences and expectations for using our technology to ensure it works for all, not just some users. These factors should not only inform technical and design decisions, but also IT investment, acquisition, development, and deployment.

Key Questions

  • At project inception, what steps do you take to determine whether a planned digital service or technology solution will support inclusive access?
  • What steps do you take to validate the accessibility of design proposals with potential disabled users?
  • How do you incorporate accessibility requirements into acquisition and development activities?

Basic Checklist

Prior to beginning a technology project, work with usability professionals and requirements analysts to:

  • Use a range of research methods to determine potential disabled users’ goals, needs, preferences, and expectations.
  • Identify what types of interactions could be difficult for disabled users, including individuals who may have:
    • Vision difficulties or impairments,
    • Hearing difficulties or impairments,
    • Speech difficulties or impairments,
    • Physical limitations or impairments, and
    • Cognitive impairments such as reading difficulties, learning challenges, or simply difficulty processing complex information.
  • Identify approaches that could lower or remove user interaction barriers.
  • Identify the applicable Section 508 standards for each component of a technology solution, including:
    • The device(s) used to access agency content,
    • The software used to run the device,
    • The electronic content provided through or produced by the solution,
    • The software used to view, interact and navigate through the electronic content, and
    • The training and documentation provided on how to configure and use the product.
  • Factor Section 508 requirements, and any additional requirements necessary to address disabled user needs, into decisions regarding what technology approach will best meet agency needs (note – this is before the acquisition or development phase).
  • When possible, create a proof-of-concepts or prototypes to validate potential technology approaches with representative disabled users (in the field if possible). Utilize test findings to refine approaches and design alternatives. Refine and retest with disabled users to verify improvements in user access as needed.
  • Finalize the accessibility requirements for the chosen solution approach, including all applicable Section 508 requirements and additional requirements necessary to address disabled user needs).
  • Incorporate the accessibility requirements into acquisition efforts (see Play 8).
  • Incorporate the accessibility requirements into development efforts (see Play 9).


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