First, do no harm

Digital accessibility is about creating products, services, environments, and content that anyone can use and understand regardless of device or ability. Accessible design and development practices can help us build inclusive, barrier-free experiences. However, we can inadvertently lose sight of the people we serve if we don’t question our assumptions or continuously work to better understand our audience.

There are many ways we can accidentally cause harm in attempting to provide support. We are humans, after all, working to humanize a digital space. Avoid these mistakes and oversights when thinking about the accessible user experience.


When accessibility is implemented as a formality or symbolic gesture, it fails to properly address barriers and lacks meaningful impact. Tokenism prevents us from understanding the lived experiences of people with disabilities.

From tokenism to empowerment.

Lack of user involvement

Digital experiences that aren’t informed by real users can ignore the people they serve. If people with disabilities are not included in the project, the end result may not accurately address the real challenges faced by users.

Learn more about GSA’s inclusion activities.

Ignoring diverse disabilities

Digital accessibility sometimes focuses on specific disabilities, neglecting the broad spectrum of disabilities and experiences. Too narrow of a focus can exclude people, blocking access and leading to further marginalization.

Learn more about diversity of abilities and barriers.

Lack of a holistic approach

Leaving accessibility until the end of the project can degrade the overall user experience and compromise inclusivity. When accessibility isn’t considered throughout the process, the focus can shift to compliance and away from people.

Learn more about integrating accessibility into project plans.

Insufficient awareness and training

Accessibility still requires more awareness. If we are not properly trained, we can harm the communities we serve. Incorrect implementation of accessibility principles and practices can make the user experience worse, even with the best intentions.

See how various roles can have an affect on the accessibility of a project.

Discounting or overwriting lived experience

When we rely on empathy alone, we overlook the lived experiences of people with disabilities in favor of our own perspectives and perceptions. If we don’t engage with our users early and often, we will have a hard time aligning with their real needs.

Empathy: its nature and limitations.

These oversights are common, but preventable. Being aware can help you avoid causing unintentional harm when trying to be inclusive and accessible.

If you’re interested in learning more about accessibility in your digital space please reach out to