1. Introduction

Our intended audience  guides the way that we design the communications. Even within a highly specific target audience, such as experts in a particular subfield, it is important to consider the wide range of neurodiversity, physical and cognitive ability, educational background, first language, age, and other traits that exist within the audience. In order to make our message as effective as possible, we need to make sure that it is accessible to everyone in our target audience.

2. Criteria for Success

This CommKit will help you to

  • integrate inclusive design practices such as barrier analysis, utilization of accessible strategies, and implementation of thoughtful user testing.
  • build familiarity with a wide range of resources to help address barriers to access.
  • be able to assess and iterate on the accessibility of various types of communication products

3. Purpose

This CommKit will serve as an introduction to inclusive design and provides a tool to help you begin to integrate inclusive practices into your communication products.

Inclusive design is a process in which interactions are designed to alleviate barriers to access, increasing the number of audience members who can access and accomplish the main goals of the interaction.

This process uses the audience journey and collaboration with a diverse range of audience members to remove barriers to access. Inclusive design is an iterative process in which we are always working to increase the accessibility of what we create.

Incorporating inclusive practices from the beginning of planning not only improves the communication experience for a small subset of the audience, but also improves the experience for everyone. For example, video captions (at home or in a loud space),  high contrast text, curb cuts, and automatic doors, are all accessibility tools that many of us use every day.

There are many incredible resources available to you online and at MIT with specific strategies to alleviate specific barriers. I have curated a list of many tools and strategies that I have found useful, included at the end of this CommKit.

**Note that depending on the context and funding of your specific communication, there may be legal and MIT requirements that need to be followed. This CommKit does not provide legal advice and you should consult with the MIT Disability and Access Services office as needed. 

***Note that accessibility laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, are the floor, not the ceiling when it comes to access. They describe the bare minimum requirements and not what is actually best for your audience members to successfully access your message and goals.

4. Analyze Your Audience and Context

Through the lens of inclusive design, disability is not a personal attribute. Instead, people have differences in physical and cognitive abilities; educational, socioeconomic, cultural, and language backgrounds; and more. Disability occurs when the environment or context results in barriers to access based on these differences. Inclusive design helps us to identify these barriers and adjust, modify, and supplement our work to alleviate these barriers.

By utilizing the tools, resources, and best practices below, we can both increase the effectiveness of our communications and the number and diversity of people that we reach.

5. Inclusive Communication Development Guide

Our Inclusive Communication Development Guide is designed to help you think through inclusive design in a clear step-by-step process and to integrate it into your regular workflow. The goal is that you use this guide as “training wheels” and adapt these design practices into your work from the beginning of a project. Since every communication product is different, you can adapt this tool to best match your specific context.

The Inclusive Communication Development Guide was adapted from resources I developed with the MIT Museum Inclusive Design Working Group, along with input from MIT and external accessibility experts.

Overview of Inclusive Communication Development Guide

Schematic diagram of the inclusive design tool highlighting the key steps; 1. Describe your communication, 2. Barrier Analysis, 3. Development and test, 4. Implementation and iteration.

6.Best Practices

When using the Inclusive Communication Development Guide, it is important to keep the following in mind for each section.

6.1. Section #1: Describe your Communication

  • Implement inclusive design from the beginning of your planning process. 
    • This will save you time and money in the long run as it is much easier to create something that is accessible than to try to retrofit after the fact or find that you need to redo something entirely. For example:
      • It is much easier and faster to add alt text to figures and images as you create them than to have to go back to every image and add it after you have finished everything else.
      • Keeping in mind best practices for color use and contrast when starting a figure will prevent you from needing to go back and adjust or remake it after if there is a problem.
  •  “Nothing about us without us.” 
    • This is a common slogan among the accessibility community. Too often are decisions made about access without including the people who have the most to gain or lose from these decisions. Do not make assumptions about what works for a given audience member. It is important to consult a diverse range of audience members to learn about effective strategies and even co-develop solutions where applicable. It is also important to note that one solution may work for someone but not some else with the same limitation.
    • For most communication instances, there are common best practices that have been created and iterated upon by and with diverse audiences that can be used.
      • When using these best practices, it is still important to have clear instructions for how to get in touch with someone if an audience member needs something specific for access when applicable to the context of the communication.

6.2. Section #2: Barrier Analysis

  • Choosing which Barriers to Address
    • In an ideal world, we would be able to address all barriers to access at once, but realistically, due to time, money, and context restraints, we need to pick and choose where we focus. To those ends:
      • Look for high impact strategies that have the potential to assist the most people.
      • Cover the applicable legal requirements
        • This is especially important if you have Federal Funds or the communication takes place in a “place of public accommodation.”
    • Always check with your organization’s accessibility, DEI, disability or similar office as they have access to many resources to support accessible communications.
    • Sometimes strategies, such as changing a physical space layout or providing live captioning, can be cost and time prohibitive depending on the scope of the communication. In these cases, it is important to still try to alleviate barriers in other ways. Instead of always providing an ASL interpreter, you can provide clear contact information for participants to request services as needed. This way you do not need to budget for every event, only when specifically requested.
  • Bias and Personal Experience
    •  It is important to consider one’s own biases when designing experiences. What physical, cognitive, cultural, language, and other traits do you have that you are privileged not to usually have to think about? Just because you can access something with no issues, does not mean that everyone can. Ask yourself, what are you able to do that allows you to successfully access information or complete a task? Also, think about instances when there were barriers for you to access a communication. Even if you overcame these barriers, this is useful information for where others might encounter barriers.
    • Use personal experience when applicable. Think about when you were in a situation where there were barriers for you to access something, such as being somewhere where your 1st language isn’t spoken. What strategies were present that helped you to communicate in these situations?

6.3. Sections #3 and #4: Development, Testing, and Implementation

  • Universal Design
    • When possible, design communications to be multimodal (using multiple communication techniques that complement one another such as text, images, audio, and tactile representations of information) so that participants are able to access information in different ways. In addition to increasing access, this also helps reiterate points for everyone.
  • User Testing
    • When appropriate, think carefully about who will attend a practice presentation, review a paper draft, or other communication product testing. You may want to go outside your field, or one step broader from a target audience to help you really make sure that your communication is accessible.
  • Evaluation
    • Where possible, It is important to always evaluate our work for whether everyone in the audience can reach the goals of the communication. These evaluations can be formal or informal but should always impact the next iteration of our work.


7. Annotated Examples

Here is an example Inclusive Communication Development Guide with the barrier analysis completed.

8. Accessibility Resources and Tips

These are some resources that I have found useful for a variety of communication related tasks. This is a great place to start but there are many more excellent resources out there so make sure you look for additional ones that best fit your context. Please reach out if you have any additional resources that could be added to this list!

General Digital Accessibility Guides and Resources

Alt Text (for figures, images, and other graphics)


  • Inclusive Language (APA)
  • Inclusive Language (PBS)
  • Repeat audience questions
  • Use a microphone even if you do not think you need it. The mic volume should be set so you can just barely hear it over the sound of your voice in many settings.
  • Describe images, don’t just say “as you can see”
  • Limit audio distractions

Automated Accessibility Audits

Captioning and American Sign Language (ASL)

  • Zoom, Google Meet, PowerPoint, and other software have automatic captioning
    • ****Important Note****** This software does not currently meet the ADA accuracy requirements of 99% accuracy. If an attendee requests captioning, a professional service must be used
  • Live transcription, Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription, and ASL interpretation can be booked through MIT for a discounted rate.
  • All videos posted publicly must have captions. Automated captioning does not meet the requirement and either must be reviewed, manually entered, or created by a service.
  • 3Play Media has useful resources and webinars on audio and video accessibility.
  • There are strict rules on the amount of time an ASL interpreter can work continuously. Depending on the length of an event, more than one interpreter is often needed. Service providers will let you know how many you will need based upon the details of the event.
  • Live captioning and ASL services take time to book and are not always available last minute. It is recommended that you notify participants that requests for such services be made at least two weeks in advance.
  • When creating slides or videos, leave space at the bottom of the screen without content for the captions.
  • Tutorials on speech-to-text and captions in Adobe Premier





Physical Space

  • Make sure table height is accessible for wheelchair users
  • Make sure paths are wide enough and clear of obstacles
  • If participants need to move during interaction, make sure it is easy for those with limited mobility to still fully engage.
  • Provide clear signage to accessible routes to locations with ramps and elevators

Social Media



  • If a significant portion of your audience are non-native English speakers, consider translating your presentation, written materials, or video captions.
  • PowerPoint has a built-in live translation tool that works relatively well.

Visual Accessibility and Slides

Video Conferencing

Web Development


Thank you to all of the members of the MIT Museum Inclusive Design Working group who came together to support the mission of making experiences more accessible and created an environment of learning and exploration.