Decoding Designers: Responsibility and Innovation in Making Web Design Accessible


Web design users and creators with disabilities from Pakistan question web design methods as a part of online feedback communities. One such practice in web design is excluding accessible features from being coded into the UX/UI (user interface and user experience design) at the initial stages of web design production. While the initial making of web design is associated with ‘innovation’, accessibility becomes the responsibility of those working on the stages of repair and maintenance, a financially constrained and often delayed stage of web design production. Such a social hierarchy of design-making propagates the idea that disabled users are ‘misfits’ in the ‘normal’ web design. Evaluating the perceived normalcy of design in online Twitter threads like #a11y and #a11ypakistan, Pakistani disabled users and creators critique and remake web design from culturally specific perspectives. By debating the “appeal” for developing certain accessible features and web languages over others, these designers show how accessibility norms in web design shape labor practices and how disabled perspectives can redefine them. Drawing together anthropological work on accessibility and science and technology studies, this paper analyzes how people with disabilities “simultaneously resist systems of domination and find ways to hack and tinker with them” by critiquing design practices online, open-sourcing, and reshaping code and other knowledge practices in the corporate model (Haraway 1997). As the materiality of web design is questioned from disabled perspectives, the practices of expertise, innovation, and ideas of responsibility are highlighted as culturally constructed on assumptions of the ‘normal’ user.


Ramsha Usman
Student, MA/PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—New Agendas for Design: Principles of Scale, Practices of Inclusion


Disability, Web, Accessibility, Digital, Inclusion

Digital Media

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