Accessibility & Advertising

Accessibility & Age Abstract

Inclusive design considers usability first: to design with the needs of everyone to decreasethe mismatch between the end-user and the design object. In advertising, the mismatchmay be in the opportunity to process an advertisement due to design strategies (i.e., executional ad cues). Based on the Motivation-Opportunity-Ability model of information processing, we focus on legibility as an important but underexplored encoding issue that canenhance consumers’ opportunity to process ads based on visual clarity and lead to perceptual fluency effects. Visual acuity declines with age, so legibility is particularly important forolder adults and those with vision loss. In line with recommended accessibility guidelines,we manipulated two advertising design factors believed to impact legibility—color contrastand font style—in the supers of a video advertisement for a pharmaceutical drug and testedthe communication outcomes (cognition, persuasion). Across three studies with three different-aged populations, we show that legibility was positively related to awareness of information in the supers and to positive perceptions of the advertisement. In line withaccessibility guidelines, legibility was rated the highest for most people in the high-colorcontrast sans serif font supers. Implications for theory, accessibility and older people, andpublic policy are discussed.

Assessing Student Knowledge Abstract

Persons with disabilities make up at least 15% of the population, yet advertising has, until recently, virtually ignored this audience. We report findings from a survey with 126 students enrolled in advertising classes to gauge awareness, knowledge, and perceptions of disability and advertising. Results show that the majority of students were largely unfamiliar with terminology and with web accessibility guidelines; only 22% learned about disability in any class. Students believed they had some knowledge but indicated that they would like to learn more about disability and advertising for their careers. Students perceived that the advertising industry does not make enough effort to consider disability in advertising. However, they listed brands (e.g., Nike, Apple) that were doing a good job with respect to disability. Results suggest that more content related to persons with disabilities and accessibility should be included in advertising curriculum; ideas and resources are shared.

My Role as a Researcher

  • Facilitated and monitored participant recruitment.

  • Collaborated on survey development to measure respondents' awareness and knowledge of accessibility in advertising.
  • Launched experimental survey to explore how and to what extent students know and perceive accessibility in advertisements, as well as general awareness of accessibility in advertising curricula. 

  • Monitored data collection and retrieved reports for analysis.

My Role as a Graphic Designer

  • Developed advertising stimuli for surveys.

  • Created and edited fictitious pharmaceutical commercials as stimuli for study.


Nelson, M. R., & Cook, K. (2023). Assessing Student Knowledge About Disabilities and Filling the Gap: Including Disability and Accessibility Content Into the Advertising Classroom. Journal of Advertising Education, 27(1), 23-49.

Nelson, M. R., & Cook, K. (2023). Accessibility and Age: Can Legibility Improve Opportunity to Process Advertising?. Journal of Advertising, 1-19.

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