Mobile app accessibility is an increasingly important factor to consider for all companies with an app product. Ensuring that your app is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, not only demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity but also helps to diminish the fact that one in four disabled are unable to use apps.
In this blog, we'll discuss what mobile app accessibility is, why mobile app accessibility is important and what steps you can take to make your app more accessible.
- What is mobile app accessibility?
- Why is mobile app accessibility important?
- Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) 2018 Act overview
- WCAG 2 - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines overview
- Ways you can improve app accessibility
- How testing can help with accessibility
What is Mobile App Accessibility?
Mobile app accessibility refers to the design and development of mobile applications in such a way that they can be accessed, understood and used by people with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive impairments. An accessible mobile app allows users with disabilities to interact with the app and its content in a way that is equivalent to the experience of users without disabilities.
Accessibility features may include features like alternative text for images, support for assistive technologies like screen readers and magnifiers, customisable font sizes and colours, and accessible touch targets. By ensuring mobile app accessibility, app developers can create inclusive digital experiences that can be accessed by the widest possible audience, regardless of their abilities.
Why Is Mobile App Accessibility Important?
Mobile app accessibility is important for many reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity, diversity and accessibility, which is increasingly important in today's society. By making your app accessible, you are ensuring that all users can use it effectively and helping to create a more inclusive digital landscape.
Secondly, the Equality Act 2010 sets out legal requirements for businesses to make their digital products accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to do so can result in legal action and penalties. Ensuring your app is accessible is, therefore, not only a moral imperative but also a legal requirement
The World Health Organization states that roughly 15% of the global population lives with a disability, which can impact user behaviour in a multitude of ways, including conditions that don’t necessarily affect vision or hearing.
An accessible mobile app is necessary for the following groups of people:
- Anyone with cognitive impairments, which can include conditions like ADD, dyslexia, and Alzheimer's. These users may be easily distracted or have difficulty following complex interfaces.
- Anyone with visual impairments, which can include colour blindness as well as partial or complete blindness. These individuals rely on contrast and alternative visual elements to access the content.
- Anyone with auditory impairments, including those with partial or complete hearing loss. Accessible alternatives in audio format are required for them to access app content fully.
- Anyone with mobility impairments, ranging from mild to severe, may have difficulty navigating and interacting with the app using standard gestures or touch controls.
Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) 2018 Act
In 2018, the UK government released the Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) 2018 Act which is a requirement for public sector websites and mobile applications to be accessible to users with disabilities, including those who are blind, deaf, or have a physical disability.
The regulations also require public sector organisations to publish an accessibility statement on their websites, which explains how accessible their site is and any areas where it may not meet the accessibility standards. This statement must be clear and easy to understand, and it should be kept up-to-date as the website or app changes over time.
For companies, this means that if they provide services to the public sector, they may need to ensure their website and mobile app are accessible to comply with the regulations. Additionally, it is good practice to design websites and mobile apps with accessibility in mind, as this can benefit all users and help companies avoid potential legal issues related to discrimination.
Overall, the WMAR highlights the importance of considering accessibility when designing websites and mobile apps, and ensures that public sector organisations in the UK are held accountable for providing accessible services to all users, regardless of disability.
WCAG 2 - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
If you haven’t yet heard of WCAG for mobile apps, now is the perfect opportunity. Title III of the ADA is the most vital section for mobile app developers, as it forbids discrimination based on ability.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the basis for all accessibility standards and apply to web pages and mobile applications, including native and hybrid apps. These guidelines offer detailed instructions for website and app owners to make their platforms accessible to users with various disabilities, ensuring they are not excluded.
WCAG is a part of the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which was created to ensure that disabled users can access websites and mobile apps without encountering any obstacles. Apps have become an integral part of our daily lives, and the WAI's mission is to make them accessible to all.
Ways You Can Improve Mobile App Accessibility
Here are some steps your software development company can take to make your apps more accessible for all:
Conduct an Accessibility Audit
Have an accessibility audit to identify any potential barriers that prevent accessibility within your app. This can include issues such as poor colour contrast, poor font size, or a lack of alternative text for images. By conducting an audit, you can identify any accessibility issues and take the proper steps to address them.
Use Inclusive Design Principles
Inclusive design is a design approach that focuses on creating products and services that are accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. This approach can include using clear and straightforward language, ensuring clear navigation elements, and providing alternative text for images.
Consider Assistive Technologies
Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, magnifiers, and voice recognition software, can help users with disabilities to access and use your app. If an app disables pinch-to-zoom scalability, users might not have access to important content.
Test with Users with Disabilities
Testing your app with users with disabilities can provide valuable feedback on its accessibility. This can include feedback on issues such as the ease of navigation, the readability of text, and the accessibility of images. By involving users with disabilities in the testing process, you can ensure that your app is truly accessible to all users.
How Testing Can Help With Accessibility
To establish effective accessibility testing of your app, it is vital to test it on a range of real devices rather than just simulators or virtual devices. Given the wide variety of Android devices with different versions of screen readers, it's crucial to choose a representative group of devices to test. If your app is already live, you can gather analytics on which devices your users are using.
Testing should primarily be done using built-in screen reader software like TalkBack on Android and VoiceOver on iOS. However, testing other assistive technologies, such as keyboard navigation and switch access, is worthwhile.
It's vital to test input validation and form errors, as well as typical user journeys through the app. Additionally, rotating your phone and changing OS settings mid-flow can reveal potential accessibility issues.
While tools like Google's Accessibility Scanner and Deque's Axe for Android can identify technical issues in the app, they should not be relied on solely. Screen reader testing will capture these issues, and accessibility checkers can only speed up specific tests, such as checking colour contrast.
Not only are there resources available from official governors, but mobile phone companies such as Apple and Android have lots of information on how to utilise their accessibility tools to create the best user experience.
By making your app accessible, you can create a more inclusive digital landscape and tap into a broader user base. Adopting inclusive design principles, considering assistive technologies, and testing with users with disabilities can all help to improve the accessibility of your app. By taking these steps, you’re allowing all users to be involved, regardless of ability.