Building accessibility into your mobile app

Mobile health apps should be accessible to as wide an audience as possible. That means including accessibility features at the earliest stages of app design. Last year the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition published a report, which recommends just such a step. Moving together: mobile apps for inclusion and assistance contains a wealth of information about accessibility in app design.

“As with the web, it is vital to build accessibility in from the earliest stages of the design process for a mobile device or app. Accessibility features that are built in by the manufacturer of a mobile device, mobile operating system or app are preferable to optional extras or workarounds added later by a struggling user,” the report states.

Levels of app accessibility vary greatly according to the report, often for the same app across different platforms.

Mobile app accessibility – nuts and bolts

The report also contains a useful “The nuts and bolts: operating systems and basic tools” section, listing the various built-in accessibility features in each OS.

Moving Together also has a dedicated section for app developers with details of specific challenges and best practice for organisations.

The main problem for developing accessible mobile apps is the proliferation of platforms and the fact that the app might have to be tailored for each, the report notes. “The easiest way for an organisation creating an app to ensure it is accessible is to build accessibility into the decision-making processes from top to bottom. This means that many different types of people in an organisation need to be aware of at least the basics of accessibility.”

Seven steps to accessible mobile apps

To help developers integrate accessibility into their apps the report suggests a seven-step process. These include understanding and maintaining an on-going dialogue with users with disability not only at the design stage but throughout the life of the product.

Seven Steps to Accessible Mobile Apps

  1. Learn about accessibility.
  2. Quick accessibility check.
  3. Publish an Accessibility Statement.
  4. Provide a Contact Us function.
  5. Ensure reading sequence is logical and comprehensible.
  6. Create a user interface that is easy to understand and operate.
  7. Ensure text formatting can be altered.

Keeping it simple is key. As is relying on standard conventions as much as possible and using a text size that is readable.

We conclude with the words of the authors:

“These seven steps should significantly improve the accessibility of most apps, but they are only the first few steps to good accessibility practice. Use them to start your journey, and keep going!”

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