What is accessibility? And what are the major barriers to achieving it?

Accessibility refers to the design of products, services, and environments in a way that is usable by folks with disabilities.

Barriers to accessibility prevent full participation in all aspects of society, and intersectionality impacts how these barriers are experienced. The most common accessibility barriers include:

Attitudinal – Stereotypes and discrimination that often result from lack of education or awareness. These are the catalyst for all other accessibility barriers, and they begin with us. (People) Example: “You don’t look disabled”.


Physical/Architectural - Design of a building or space that prevents or limits navigation and use.

(The spaces we design)

Example: “There are stairs into the building, and no ramp” OR “The ramp is at the back of the building, beside the dumpsters”.

Communication - Information that is shared and received in formats that aren’t perceivable by everyone, with no alternative formats available. (Information we share and how we share it)

Example: “Important announcements will be made verbally over the loudspeaker only”.

Technological – From software to hardware, technology that cannot be fully accessed or used with or without assistive technology. (Tech we build)

Example: “There is only self-checkout with a touchscreen. No alternative options or audio instructions are provided”.

Systemic - Policies, practices, and procedures that are exclusionary and prevent equitable rights and participation. (Norms we enforce)

Example: “All roles within our company require a driver's license and access to a vehicle, even if the job can be done entirely in the office or remotely from home”.

“We” refers to all of us. Designers, builders, decision-makers, caregivers. Humans. Accessibility is our collective responsibility, as it impacts all of us and how we live. And it is one critical step toward the larger goal of inclusion and belonging.