In 2016, IBM reached the critical milestone of hiring a thousand formally trained product designers. When they arrive, new hires participate in a three month bootcamp. They collaborate on real projects and receive intensive training before joining a product team. Each designer goes through an accessibility hackathon—which breaks down biases and builds empathy for people with cognitive, visual, physical, and auditory disabilities. While the week-long experience is always an eye-opener for new comers,
it can still be forgotten once work with tighter deadlines begins.

Co-designers: Evan Maeda, Derrick Ligon


accessibility at your desk

It can still be rare for accessibility to
be considered from the very beginning.


Unfortunately, it can still be rare for accessibility to be considered from the very beginning of a software project all the way through to the release. Accessibility is often left to engineers, who become experts in order to try deliver products on schedule while still complying with standards. Once you're on a product team, most of the tactical work of accessibility happens behind a screen at your desk, even remotely with other teammates halfway across the world. 


education for whole product teams 

Designers teach their whole teams how to practice accessible design.


In order to help designers bring the new thinking frameworks they learn in bootcamp back to their teams, we created a handbook. It takes designers, offering managers, and developers though a series of human-centered exercises and best practices in order to reach inclusive outcomes. Armed with educational guidance, designers now teach their whole teams how to practice accessible design from the start of a project with a target of zero accessibility debt.


accessibility anywhere, for everyone

We had to provide teams with new mindsets, methods, and tooling. 

Teams wanted something they could pass around the table and take notes in as topics evolve. The physicality of the handbook also creates a cultural perception around the design studio that accessibility is a priority for everyone

Because many of the resources in the handbooks are also interactive links, we created a website and a downloadable PDF which also accompany the book and can be referenced on-the-go. The book is printed in black and white, keeping costs low for teams and visual contrast high!


Teams now recognize the social and financial value of designing for everyone.

The handbook reduces the need for many teams to retrofit solutions for people with disabilities at the end of a development cycle because it encourages designers to modify their screen flows earlier. Product managers give teams the extra time to design for inclusion because they recognize the social and financial value of designing for everyone.



In 2016, sixty Accessibility Handbooks were distributed during a report given by the head of IBM Design on Capitol Hill at a Congressional hearing on the topic of accessibility in Washington DC.

In 2017, John Maeda included IBM as one of two companies leading with action on their promise to design with inclusion in mind and linked to the Accessibility Handbook in his Design in Tech report. 

The IBM Accessibility handbook has undergone multiple revisions from new contributors and has been downloaded, viewed and/or purchased by over 25k employees.



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Feel free to explore the presentation decks for recent talks or workshops I've held on the topics of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion:

SXSW 2017: Why Women Leave Tech and How to Fix It
IDSA 2017: Inclusive Design is Good Business
Grace Hopper 2017: Accessible Design Thinking Workshop