4 Using Personas

One way to improve accessibility and the end user experience more broadly is by developing personas. Personas are fictional user-types created to represent real people that might use your service, product, site. Creating multiple and diverse personas can help you recognize different needs and expectations of potential users.

In the specific context of improving accessibility, there are two types of personas you can consider developing: personas that represent people with disabilities, and personas without disabilities who may need or benefit from more accessible experiences. Considering disability is an excellent way to help create inclusive and accessible products.


Persons with disabilities as persona examples

Here are some examples of personas that you could use:

  • A student who is blind wants to learn from the online course material. They depend on a keyboard and screen reader to review content and complete tasks.
  • A student with low vision is watching a slide presentation. They rely on zoom features and good colour contrast to perceive content.
  • A student with learning disabilities depends on visual aids, simplified text, and uses text-to-speech tools to comprehend online content.
  • A student with impaired motor skills needs to complete an online quiz. They rely on their keyboard or speech-to-text software to complete the test.


Personas and accessible experiences

You can also add accessible experiences to pre-existing personas. Modifying a persona to include a temporary disability, like a broken arm, will help your designers consider how they might navigate software without using a mouse. Having your persona complete homework outside introduces the need for good contrast. If your persona lives in a noisy household, captions make it easier to consume pre-recorded lecture content.

Accessible considerations

The following list of sample solutions can give you an idea of how to overcome barriers your personas might experience. The Government of Canada also provides detailed personas that can be useful.

Sensory disability (vision)

  • Good contrast
  • Colour selection
  • Readable font size
  • Software and hardware with adjustable display settings (e.g., magnification)
  • Electronic documents with accessibility features
  • Applications that support all browsers and operating system accessibility features
  • Reduced motion options
  • Time-based media (audio/video) is available in text format
  • Ability to control time-based media (e.g., pause, slow down)

Sensory disability (hearing)

  • Audio signal/alert with supporting visual cues
  • Hardware and software with adjustable audio settings
  • Hardware that is compatible with hearing devices
  • Time-based media that includes captions and text-based alternatives like transcripts

Physical disability

  • Alternative controls for complex interactions requiring two hands
  • Keyboard or switch compatibility
  • Alternate solutions for complex patterns like click and drag
  • Large target areas for functional elements (i.e. does not require fine motor control and precise actions)

Cognitive, learning disability, or language barriers

  • Use plain language
  • Choose readable fonts
  • Avoid unnecessary and repetitive animation or blinking text
  • Remove persistent sound effects
  • Use recognizable design patterns and icons with visible text labels

Resources :

The UK Home Office has a series of informational posters summarizing considerations for accessible design. This content is also available as a series of HTML pages:

  • Designing for users with low vision: (image) (html)
  • Designing for users of screen readers: (image) (html)
  • Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing: (image) (html)
  • Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities: (image) (html)
  • Designing for users with dyslexia: (image) (html)
  • Designing for users on the autism spectrum: (image) (html)


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eCampusOntario's Digital Accessibility Toolkit Copyright © by eCampus Ontario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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