A step forward in our accessibility efforts

Rachel Miller
Engineering Manager at Figma
Product Manager at Figma

Update Tuesday, August 9th: The prototype screen reader feature mentioned is now in open beta for everyone to try! For more information on the feature, head to our Help Center.

Figma’s vision is to make design accessible to all, and while today more than two-thirds of our community identifies as something other than “designer,” we know making design truly accessible means more than simply opening it up to more people. It also means building products that make it possible for anyone—regardless of age, ability, or background—to participate in the design process from end to end.

A new prototype screen reader beta

Prototyping is a critical part of this process. It allows users to iterate and envision how their designs might come to life on the screen. But for people who are blind or low-vision and use assistive technology, prototyping in Figma is not where it needs to be. For example, where sighted users see a prototype, screen readers see an empty canvas label—meaning text, images, and other content are essentially invisible to the user.

This core, creative functionality should work well for everyone who relies on it. That’s why we’re excited to announce a prototype screen reader beta that includes support for text notes, alt text for images, and the ability to interact with and navigate through prototypes with buttons and keyboard actions like tabbing. Our goal is to gather feedback on changes we’ve made to improve the screen reader experience.

This beta has been a long time coming, in part because of the ways our technology works. While Figma is web-based, the fact that designs aren’t drawn in HTML makes it different from most websites and impossible for most screen readers to, well, read. To fix this, we built the ability to convert these Figma prototypes into an HTML representation that we expose just to screen readers. This way, they can actually understand and read off what's being shown on the prototype. We know it took some time, but we believe this will ultimately make a meaningful difference for screen reader users.

Our work so far

While we are excited to launch this beta, we also know that our community has asked for—and needs—more screen reader and accessibility support. This is an important step, one that builds on other recent accessibility-focused work at Figma that includes:

  • Dark mode and improved color contrast compliance (meeting draft WCAG 3.0 standards) for users who need a different visual representation
  • Live caption open beta for audio chat on the Figma desktop app and Pro, Org, and Enterprise plans
  • A total platform assessment by Deque to identify areas for improvement, like allowing keyboard-only interactions and following best practices for ARIA labeling
  • Continued growth and adoption of accessibility-focused plugins, widgets, and community files created by companies like Adee, Deque, and Stark, and builders like Kelly Gorr

We are making sure that our team is equipped, empowered, and expected to design and build products with accessibility in mind. One way we’re doing that is by creating reusable UI components to support keyboard-only and screen reader usage. We’re also building tooling to ensure new features and code follow accessibility best practices.

Making Figma more accessible also means bringing our community into our design process early and often, specifically through alpha and beta testing programs like the one we’re announcing today.

Still more to do

As Dylan, our CEO, said last week in his keynote at Config, we know we still have a lot of work to do. And while we’re taking steps to make Figma a more accessible platform, we’re also learning about what tools can help our users build more accessible products. This includes giving users the ability to set alt text, set ARIA roles on components, and set a tab order for prototypes. But this is also just the start, and we look forward to doing this critical work for and with our community.

If you’d like to be involved with the Figma prototype screen reader beta, sign up here.