When we design for underrepresented communities, we get a better product for all. This principle is the north star of inclusive design and is deeply connected to Cisco’s purpose. Cisco strives to design and build technology in ways that respect human rights, promote inclusion, and protect privacy and security, so that everyone can benefit from a more connected world.

“When we design for vulnerable communities and personas, we end up having a better product that more people can benefit
from. This is why Inclusive and accessible design plays a critical role in and across the product development lifecycle

—Maulie Dass, Cisco Innovation Labs Director

One team creating this connected world through inclusive design is the Cisco Secure Design team. Their Accessibility Research Program teaches Cisco Duo designers to conduct interviews and usability tests with people with disabilities, exposing them to a foundational understanding of assistive technology and how people use products, beyond the usual focus on sighted users with a keyboard and mouse.

“We empower people to think critically about task flows and features by engaging closely with people who use assistive technology. It’s great for empathy building, but more importantly, it challenges the preconceived ideas of how one might complete a task on an app or website.”
—Kaush Ganesh, Senior Duo Design Researcher for Cisco Secure

“Including the voices of people with disabilities in the product development process helps ensure Cisco Secure is designing products that don’t just meet legal requirements but give everyone a great, well thought out user experience.”
—Colin Fulton, Duo Accessibility Specialist in Cisco Secure

Currently, Duo’s authentication process has screen reader capabilities, but Cisco prioritizes creating an experience that excels basic functionality to provide the best experience with our products. Always looking for ways to optimize authentication, the Cisco Secure team joined forces with Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) and Cisco Innovation Lab to partner with university students for an inclusive design opportunity. Schoolab’s Equitable Design Lab, a course ran through the University of California, Berkeley, teaches students to center on the importance of equity in the design process through a collaboration of students and industry experts in tackling real-world challenges. Cisco took the opportunity to ask the question to the students of how we might make cybersecurity more accessible and inclusive for users with visual disabilities.

Tasked with this equitable opportunity statement, the two student teams: Team 1 and Team A, spent three months following an inclusive design process by conducting user research with blind and hard-of-seeing communities, including Cisco’s Connected Disabilities Action Network members. In the culmination of a semester proximate to their target user, the student teams proposed user-driven solutions leveraging proximity authentication and haptic feedback authentication.

“We were excited to work with the Berkeley design students because even though we are creating an inclusive design program internally, having an outside perspective helps find new solutions and discover opportunities we have missed.”
– Colin Fulton, Duo Accessibility Specialist in Cisco Secure

While Cisco Secure won’t be immediately implementing the projects due to security standards and implementation complications, these projects have sparked conversations about related improvements and will influence future product work. The proposals inspired the team to reevaluate the design of some parts of verified pushes, they are investigating authentication methods that can improve security while also being easier for people with and without disabilities to use.

“I was impressed by the caliber of questions the students asked when exploring the challenge. Security design is an exciting space to explore, and being inclusive is extremely important because security and usability go hand in hand.”
—Kaush Ganesh, Senior Duo Design Researcher for Cisco Secure

Beyond new design considerations, collaborating with Berkeley’s students gave Cisco a chance to support the next generation of designers by introducing them to the questions they should be asking in their careers to create inclusive products for everyone.

“Designing something for someone that we do not identify with taught us how to question, listen, observe, and empathize. It was heartwarming and proud to hear the people we interviewed respond so positively to our ideas on creating a better user experience. “
—UC Berkeley Equitable Design Lab Masters Student

Accessibility work is never done. As seen through the value of Cisco’s multi-team collaboration with Schoolab, organizations must tackle inclusive design opportunities with a lens of empathy for the users and intentionality of whose voices are and are not considered. It is through this discipline that we can improve our technology and design for a world to empower all.


Cisco Secure is always open to customer feedback concerning accessibility. If anyone encounters accessibility issues with Duo products, please ask your Cisco Secure representative to put you in touch with Duo’s accessibility research team. Your feedback helps Cisco Secure democratize security and create great user experiences for everyone.

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TK Keanini


Security Business Group