Fact or Fiction? Accessible Websites Are Ugly by Design

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Deque_ft._img_factorfiction200x200Fact: Accessible websites can be ugly, and there are a lot of ugly accessible websites out there. But it's not accessibility that makes them ugly -- there are also a lot of ugly inaccessible websites too!

The truth is, you don't have to sacrifice design for accessibility. Accessible websites can be aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly for all audiences. Some of the most beautiful sites are fully accessible to persons with disabilities!

The Truth Behind the Myth

So why do so many professional web designers insist that you can't have good design in an accessible site?

This myth is based on the technology limitations that existed years ago. At that time, the limitations were much more prohibitive for designers and text-only was often considered the best way to achieve accessibility. Today, accessible websites can be rich with images and videos, as long as you include alt text and captions.

It is true that accessibility places a few design limitations on websites. But that doesn't mean the only alternative is an ugly site. It just means you might have to make a few adjustments. For example, you might not have your first choice of font size, or your color palette might be a little constrained. But there are plenty of examples of beautifully designed accessible sites.

Beautiful Accessible Sites in Real Life

Still don't believe accessible websites can be attractive? Browse around the site you're reading right now! The Deque website is fully accessible to people living with disabilities and using assistive technology.

Here are a few more examples of beautifully designed accessible websites:

Tips for Designing Accessible Websites

  • Don't worry about accessibility problems when you're in design mode. Create the design and build the HTML, then check it for accessibility and fix any issues you need to change.
  • Get to know what design elements impact accessibility. Here's a handy checklist to get you started.
  • When developing user personas, consider adding a persona with a disability in order to make sure all your users are represented.
  • During the user testing phase, consider recruiting a user with visual or other disabilities to get an inclusive view of how users interact with your site.

Every good web editor has all the tools and techniques needed to make an accessible website. Good design just takes a bit more thoughtfulness. Ugly accessible websites are a sign of lazy (or rushed) design, not of constraining standards.

In fact, you could argue that accessibility should promote good design. Web accessibility means making websites usable by EVERYONE -- those with impairments as well as those without. So a part of accessibility is about making a well-designed website that everyone can enjoy.

Next Steps



For over fifteen years, Deque has been helping major corporations, government agencies, and other organizations ensure that their websites and mobile apps are accessible to everyone. We have more than fifteen years of history of serving the federal government, including undertaking the biggest accessibility program that's occurred in the United States government or anywhere. Deque also works with .edu's and mission-focused nonprofits to ensure that their materials and systems are usable and barrier free for users with disabilities. The company invented the first accessibility plug-in software, the first web-based testing platform, and the first server-based accessibility solution. All of these have been created in the service of helping our customers become accessible, advance the goals of their organization, and remove barriers for all users on the web.

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