In the United States, one in four adults — 61 million people — have a disability impacting various aspects of their daily lives. As technology advances, designing accessible systems is central to mass communications. As one of the core channels delivering visual communications, business leaders should prioritize accessibility in digital signage.

This can be achieved through using universal design practices.

With its ability to incorporate a variety of assistive technologies, digital signage is an ideal platform for organizations to share dynamic messaging with a large audience. Implementing elements like interactive features, video, audio and subtitles improve communication to reach consumers in ways that traditional static signage cannot. Digital signage also provides organizations with a medium for quickly and easily delivering accurate information and real-time updates where necessary.

By strategically applying existing knowledge and skill sets from universal design best practices, digital signage is an effective tool for organizations to support and enhance accessibility.

Closed captions, alt-texts, graphics with high contrast and inclusivity in images are all examples of increased accessibility in digital spaces. From social media posts to websites and advertisements, organizations are improving communication efforts by ensuring materials are more easily accessible to a larger audience.

Assess the environment

Designing digital signage highlights the importance of understanding broader environmental accessibility. Visibility, color choice, size, font style and placement are spatial elements that influence good design, determining the most effective ways to communicate in a physical area.

Consider the following questions:

• How do people use a space?
• Which locations are people naturally drawn to?
• Where should traffic be directed?
• Can navigation be simplified?
• Are there any major obstructions?

By evaluating an environment’s layout, organizations can effectively incorporate digital signage that works with the space to increase accessibility.

Understanding the ways in which location, level of interactivity, positioning, messaging and audiences inform design supports the notion that accessibility should be factored into digital signage before the design process begins. This also reiterates the importance of reviewing the overall accessibility of an environment.

Visibility, approachability, orientation, lighting and noise levels will determine the best location to place screens. Consider whether the screens will be mounted or free-standing. If they are to be mounted, review the distance between the screen and the ground and the distance to other objects in the area.

When looking at interactivity, determine if it is necessary for the goal of the design. Screen size, buttons, navigation menus, proximity to the floor, and touchable maps determine operability. To increase accessibility, the elements should be located within 48 inches of the floor. Larger button sizes and placing interactive elements along the bottom third of a vertical screen and within the bottom half of a horizontal screen are additional ways to facilitate accessible interaction.

Make your digital signage easy to understand

During the design process, businesses have several opportunities to implement inclusivity and universal design.

Universal design refers to a clear and efficient presentation of information that considers consistency, color and contrast, legibility, clarity and a harmonious balance between text and visual assets. This translates to the strategic implementation of the right fonts, verbiage, and symbols to support accessible communication.

Grouping elements together by color, shape and imagery creates opportunities for organizations to implement branding and messaging into digital design elements. Uniformity helps to deliver consistent, necessary information while also supporting brand identity.

Also, remember to keep demographics in mind. Will your audience be able to find and understand your signs easily? Are they in a hurry, or can they spend adequate time looking at the screen? If so, adjust the content accordingly, ensuring the materials are effectively communicated to reach the right audience.

Picture a large hotel lobby. Guests will need help finding important areas like the front desk, elevators, stairwells, restrooms, suites and dining spaces. Designs can lean into a hotel’s branding to group areas by color, using one color to identify restaurants, cafeterias and cafes while designating another color for fitness rooms, spas, and outdoor spaces.

Enhance accessibility by adding simple, clear messaging and symbols to these designs, in addition to providing real-time updates and information about the hours of operation, pricing and availability. This can also be improved by adding short snippets of video and audio accompanied by transcripts or subtitles. Repetition of content across different channels will help in relaying important messages and establishing trust with consumers.

Accessibility appeals to a wider audience

Universal design also benefits people without disabilities.

Imagine walking through a busy airport. Here, wayfinding signage plays an important role in helping passengers move from one place to another. With so many diverse passengers coming and going, signage must be clear and easily recognizable. This includes maintaining consistency across colors, symbols and texts.

Passengers who have never visited a specific city or airport would find comfort in knowing where to look to find information about baggage collection, connecting flights and exits. Colors like blues, whites, reds, greens and yellows call attention to these signs. Visibility ensures signs are easily spotted, and the adoption of universal icons are clear examples of good and accessible design.

Digital signage takes this a step further through customization, supporting the ability to easily update content from anywhere, and by providing real-time information. When designing with these factors in mind, businesses display a level of understanding that provides equal access to people who may require assistive technologies.

Universal design is good design

Good design is determined by an organization’s ability to deliver a message effectively. Universal design tackles that issue by presenting clear and simple content. Its goal is to make things easy to understand, regardless of a person’s experience, knowledge, language or ability.

Factors like designing for specific environments and leveraging the technological capabilities of digital signage further demonstrate an organization’s understanding of universal design principles and accessibility.

Universal design is a tool that supports other diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, such as adhering to local disability compliance guidelines and hiring more people with disabilities. As digital signage continues to provide more options to communicate and connect with consumers, implementing universal design principles at every stage of the design process sets the stage for organizations to meet the various needs of the largest audience possible.

Implementing universal design principles provides one piece of the larger puzzle to increase accessibility. By researching local disability compliance guidelines and hiring more people with disabilities across design and leadership teams, businesses are better equipped to effectively reach a wider audience and ensure accessibility is present throughout the design process.

(2023, August 18). David Levin – Chief Executive Officer, Poppulo. Retrieved from