Accessibility And Rocket Design System

Olya Kenney6-Minute Read
PUBLISHED: February 16, 2023


At Rocket Companies®, we amaze our clients by offering them incredible experiences, solving their problems and finding ways to connect with the community through empathy and care. In our commitment to deliver the most value for all, we are dedicated to meeting the needs of people with a diversity of backgrounds, disability types and circumstances. To build inclusive digital products that empower our clients and drive the remarkable culture of our organization, we uphold accessibility as an essential pillar of Rocket Design System.

How Does Accessibility Of A Design System Help Create Inclusive Digital Products?

Because of its centralized nature, design systems streamline continuous improvement by establishing and maintaining a comprehensive set of standards, reusable components, patterns and other elements at scale. Accessibility (A11Y) is a critical cornerstone of an inclusive design system and a vital aspect of product design and development process. As a human-centered business practice aimed to provide equitable access to the widest possible audience, accessibility is aligned with our culture because it guides us how to do the right thing for every client, every time.

Our Accessibility team works in partnership with multiple business areas across the organization to ensure our products and services are inclusive and disability-friendly. For instance, in close partnership with the Rocket Design System (RDS), we raise awareness about the benefits and limitations of RDS and guide the daily work of product teams committed to the responsible use of our design system making our offerings accessible for all.

What Are The Benefits And Limitations Of A Design System?

A design system serves critical purpose on various stages of product design and development process because it ensures visual consistency across products by offering an arsenal of reusable UI elements, patterns, guidelines and design resources. This improves efficiency, scalability and quality assurance while strengthening brand consistency across products.

When product teams work with us to ensure accessibility of their deliverables, we encourage them to rely on RDS while keeping in mind that a lot of nuanced work must also be done at a product level to make unique product features truly human-centered.

For example, those considerations include alternative text for images and media, meaningful names for hyperlinks and many other accessibility best practices.

How Do Text Alternatives Make Digital Communication More Inclusive While Improving SEO?

Text alternatives like alternative (alt) text for images and captions for videos are critical for people with disabilities. For example, alternative text makes it possible for blind users to experience the meaning of an image through the use of assistive technology like screen readers. While the main purpose of text alternatives is to convey the meaning of visual data to users who are unable to perceive it, text alternatives also have a tremendously positive impact on searchability and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results for digital products.

Meaningful alt text, captions and transcripts measurably increase organic website traffic by adding key words that help improve ranking of digital products. They exemplify how Accessibility benefits SEO and searchability. Your website’s SEO will benefit from multiple other accessibility best practices, including descriptive headings and page titles, video and audio transcriptions and more.

What Is An Example Of How To Work Accessibility Into Your Process?

When team members create unique images or videos for digital products, it’s important to remember that a design system cannot supply text alternatives for those assets. Instead, a Product Manager allocates time within the project cycle to work with content writers who will create meaningful and on-brand text alternatives.

This is because alternative text needs to be written according to the unique image purpose on the page. Through collaborative efforts between content writers and designers early in the process, the team will have clarity if an image is informative, decorative or functional/active. As a result, engineers receive clear, meaningful and impactful instructions on how to support each unique image. This expands inclusivity and searchability of the digital platform, thus maximizing conversion rate and market share.

What Other Steps Help Us Bridge The Digital Divide?

To create a complete and scalable cross-Rocket experience for our clients with disabilities, we partner with various teams across the organization to uphold accessibility. In this dedicated effort, we promote human-centered application of accessibility industry standards across all digital channels, including Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. As outlined in RDS, it involves the following criteria for creating scalable and inclusive client experiences included in the Accessibility Principles Checklist:

As we advocate the importance of establishing automated and manual accessibility testing of each digital product, we reference a variety of role focused A11Y resources available in RDS. In addition to internal resources, we encourage the growth of accessibility maturity by relying on our external and industry resources, including the following:

Digital accessibility improves user experience in all digital channels, including websites, mobile apps, PDFs, emails, conversational chat instant-messaging, presentations and documents, client and team-member tools, videos and all other digital communications and technologies. In the process, we identify opportunities to strengthen accessibility guidance in operational systems for our company. As a result, RDS is a growing and evolving design system, which we also update to reflect relevant resources to build inclusive products.

Our Digital Accessibility team is dedicated to inclusivity of digital products, services and experiences with empathy and care. RDS is a living ecosystem, which will continue to grow and expand its capacity to support digital channels and experiences. By working together and forming strategic partnerships focused on digital inclusion, we expand digital platform, grow market share, strengthen brand affinity, safeguard our organization from legal risks and improve experiences for all! 

How Does Accessibility Impact Clients, Team Members, Partners, Community And Business?

Accessibility is a human-centered business practice aimed to provide equitable access to people of all disability types, needs and backgrounds. According to recent data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with permanent disabilities are an increasingly large demographic because they now account for 26 percent of the overall population or 61 million United States adults. Guided by our ISM, “Do The Right Thing,” we rely on accessibility to create products and services that empower people with disabilities to meet their personal and professional goals as our clients, team members and partners. 

Many more people are undiagnosed or experience temporary and situational disabilities. In their lifetimes, every one of our users experiences temporary injuries, noise, poor light conditions or other impairments that impede digital experiences. To support people in those complex moments, we rely on best practices for accessibility and inclusive design.

Accessibility helps to create digital products for your older self. As people age, their abilities decline. Although age often brings wisdom, people’s vision, hearing, mobility and other abilities are known to weaken as they get older. When we form a relationship with every client, we are there for them through every step of their journey in the years to come. Accessibility helps us nurture clients and anticipate their changing needs.

Accessibility helps meet business goals. According to Section, accessibility “could make website navigation possible and/or easier for 57% of computer users. 71% of web users with a disability will simply leave a website that is not accessible. That represents a significant loss of traffic, customers and audience. It also represents an opportunity for businesses and consumers to reach this untapped market online. Accessible web design minimizes the rate at which users abandon a site and increases revenue.”  Furthermore, accessibility safeguards from legal risks, supports diversity and strengthens digital brand.

Accessibility builds stronger communities and promotes innovation. People with disabilities have strong ties in the community, and accessibility helps increase the reach of a digital brand. For example, the invention of phone, email and keyboard were originally made to meet the needs of people with disabilities, and they revolutionized the industry. Those and many other inventions show how accessibility is synonymous with innovation and competitive growth of an organization. By meeting the needs of people with disabilities, accessibility is also able to improve experiences for everyone!

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Olya Kenney

Olya Kenney is a mentor, practice leader and our Senior Digital Accessibility Manager. Since Olya joined Rocket Companies® in 2016, she’s made a remarkable impact on the growth and development of the organizational accessibility program, promoting inclusivity of digital products and environments and driving disability-friendly culture.