Mobile App Accessibility is Now A Vital Requirement

Raman Mehta August 4, 2020
Accessibility – it’s not an option, but a universal human right. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Important People of the 20th Century’ rightly said, “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect.” Digital accessibility is an important topic in the current global scenario. People are using the Internet for everything, from grocery shopping to ticket booking, business continuity, and remote learning. Smartphones and hand-held devices are commonly preferred for virtual transactions due to the intuitive and user-friendly interface. In 2020, there are over 3.5 billion people that use smartphones worldwide. Mobile applications have changed the way we communicate, learn, and work. While there is no fixed blueprint for developing the perfect mobile app, the one aspect that you cannot compromise is accessibility.  Accessible mobile applications touch lives and make a difference. Higher engagement, wider reach, and no discrimination against all kinds of users – it’s just what all mobile developers are looking for in the long run. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) provide a framework to develop digital content, both website and mobile applications that are inclusive. Here are some key focus areas to keep in mind while testing a mobile app for accessibility:
  • User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG): Specialized guidelines emphasize how to make diverse user agents such as web browsers, extensions, media players, and readers accessible to people with disabilities.
  • WAI-ARIA:The Accessible Rich Internet Applications suite enables mobile app developers to overcome various accessibility issues related to dynamic web content, and helps to create assistive technology for disabled users.
  • Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP): A list of detailed practices that aim to provide a thematically consistent user experience on mobile apps, and increase site useability.
  • Mobile Web Application Best Practices (MBABP): A document created for mobile web site creators and operators that helps to facilitate the delivery of digital content through mobile devices that are inclusive and accessible for all kinds of users.
  • Touch Events: Set guidelines for physical multitouch interface events such as interactive tablets, electronic whiteboards, and input devices. It helps mobile app developers add inclusivity to design through text resize and reflow, along with specific user-actions such as zoom-in, scroll, and undo.
  Mobile accessibility is a vital component of digital accessibility. As we surge forward in the battle against COVID-19, mobile applications are the go-to resource for everything. More importantly, they play a great role in e-learning which is a new way of life. With extended lockdowns in most parts of the world, students rely on mobile devices for online classes. This means that mobile technologies should be developed inclusively – after all, people with disabilities cannot be deprived of the fundamental human right to education.  Educational technology firms are now developing mobile-first platforms that provide democratic content, keeping in line with WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Considering that 61% of people will not return to an inaccessible website, it is imperative to remove barriers for slow-learners, elderly, and disabled populations. Let’s take the example of color blindness that affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide. The American Foundation for the Blind has listed assistive technology mobile applications that include optical character recognition, speech-to-text technology, and can be used with screen magnification software for better accessibility by learners with visual disabilities.  Mobile app-accessibility comes with tons of legal, moral, and monetary implications. Android and iOS platforms have a wide array of accessibility tools that can help mobile app developers create online learning platforms with inclusive design. Accessible mobile applications are the new standard, rather than an exception. So get on board, implement the best accessibility practices to provide an excellent experience to diverse mobile app users.  

Raman Mehta

Raman Mehta is a software accessibility consultant. He is a visually impaired person who has been working on bringing the real user experience to the world of accessibility testing. Besides his testing responsibilities, Raman occasionally presents organization-hosted webinars and technical workshops. Raman has 10+ years of professional experience of which the past six years have been in the space of accessibility. Besides software testing, he has a keen interest in computer networks and hardware solutions. He is a certified CPACC expert.