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What is Mobile app accessibility?

  • Trying your best to assist people with disabilities is just the right thing to do. By doing so, you’re also widening your reach and opening up your app to a new audience

Mobile App Accessibility Checklist

For any mobile app to be successful, You have to make sure that it reaches the widest audience possible. If more people can access your app, it helps you boost your download rates and eventually increase your profit margin. But for your app to have a greater reach, it has to be accessible to everyone. So what does it mean when we say mobile accessibility?  

According to the Web Accessibility Initiative, mobile accessibility refers to making websites and applications more accessible to people with disabilities when they are using apps on their mobile phones and other devices. This concept refers to more than just smartphones and tablets. Other devices need to be accessible, such as smart TVs, smartwatches and other wearables, car dashboards, airplane backseat monitors, And household appliances.

Mobile technologies, as we are well aware, are growing in leaps and bounds changing the world around. It is the responsibility of the tech world to be able to reach out to people from all spheres, including people with disabilities, even if it is not directly profitable. Now more than ever, people are relying on apps for their daily necessities including people with disabilities. In the world of accessibility, mobile app personalization is often pushed to the low priority by companies and app owners, even as usage and engagement on mobile are on the rise. According to Pew Research center, 37 percent of Americans primarily use mobile devices to connect to the web, and the other  20 percent of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home. Yet, the primary and sometimes only digital asset that organizations address for compliance is their website.

According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people worldwide have some form of disability (57 million in the United States alone). So, if you haven’t considered mobile app accessibility thoroughly in your design, you’ve severely restricted the audience you can reach.

What is Mobile App accessibility? 

When a mobile site or an app is called accessible, it means that it can be used by someone with a disability. It could be someone who is blind that uses software that reads websites and apps out loud.  Or someone who can’t hear properly and turns on captions when they watch a video. Mobile app-accessibility describes the importance of developing mobile applications or mobile sites for smartphones, tablets, and wearables to be user-friendly to the 1+ billion people worldwide who have a disability. 

When developed correctly, mobile websites and apps work for all of these people. But most of the time, mobile technology is not developed with accessibility best practices in mind.  Why is that? It is often an honest oversight. Nobody intends to exclude people with disabilities from using a website. Many developers were taught best practices for mobile accessibility. Or sometimes the goal of mobile accessibility is pushed to the backburner. Either way, people with disabilities get affected.  They also want to use online banking, shop, read the news, and talk to friends and family online but they don't always have the option. 

Accessible apps make a huge difference.  Something as simple as adding captions can boost engagement. Captioning has increased video engagement by over 500% over the last 8 years. As more people grow older, there will be an increasing market for apps that take advantage of these types of assistive technology. Even basic smartphones come with these features and apps for people with disabilities.

Who needs mobile accessible apps?

As we previously stated,  accessible mobile apps are for people with some kind of disabilities. Here are some common categories of disabilities that can largely impact someone’s mobile app experience. 

  • Lack of ability to move dexterously or tap with a purpose
  • Inability to process external stimuli such as sound and sights
  • People with cognitive impairments when they have following too many different screens or themes

Let’s go over the numbers again to see how many people this affects. Well, in the United States alone there are roughly 57 million people who have a disability. If we break this number down even further. About 20 million people have trouble lifting or gripping, which could limit their ability to hold a cell phone. Having these impairments can impact their ability to use your mobile app. So it is evident that enough people are affected by this to prove that you need your mobile app solutions to be accessible.

Checklist to achieve mobile app accessibility 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) sets the standard for making web content more accessible based on the needs of the people. We have absorbed their content and summarized it into an easy checklist. You can use this mobile accessibility checklist to ensure that your app meets the WCAG best practices and standards for online interactions.

1. Focus on Touch Targets and Placement

The higher resolution in mobile devices lets multiple interactive elements display together on a small screen. These elements must be large and distanced enough so that users can easily find them by touch.  The tap targets in the app should be big enough for users to interact with accuracy and confidence, even when they have to use mobile in a hurry.  Best practices for touch target size include:

  • Creating touch targets that are at least 9 mm high by 9 mm wide
  • Including inactive space surrounding smaller touch targets

Mobile apps should position interactive elements where they can be accessed easily regardless of how the device is held. Developers should consider how an easy-to-use button placement for some users might cause trouble for others. For example, left- versus right-handed use or assuming the thumb range of motion. Suggestions for touch target placement include: 

  • Place buttons where they are easy to reach.
  • Enable flexible use for all interactive elements.

2. Design for Varying Screen Sizes

Smaller screens and custom aspect ratios are trademarks of mobile devices. Designers need to take that into account while building native apps. A smaller screen restricts how much information people can take in at one time, especially when the user needs to zoom in on the content due to poor vision. 

Suggestions for helping users to make the most of small screens are:

  • Providing a default screen size for content and touch controls to minimize the need to zoom in and out for users with low vision.
  • Positioning the form field below, instead of positioning beside their labels. 
  • Reducing the amount of data on each page by providing a dedicated mobile website or designing the website consciously. 
  • Adjusting the length of link text to the viewport width

3. Provide Consistent Layouts and Templates 

Elements that are repeated throughout the pages in a mobile application should be displayed in a consistent layout. In responsive web design (in which elements are organized based on device size and screen orientation), web pages in a particular size and orientation should be consistent in placing repeated components and navigational elements. 

For instance, a native application normally has a logo, a title, a search, and a navigation bar. At the top of each page, these elements appear in the same relative order and location. When you view the app on the smaller screen in portrait mode, the navigation bar collapses into an icon with the drop-down list,  but the elements in the list are in the exact order.

Persistence is key to designing seamless cross-channel user experiences. It helps the user feel in control while performing tasks, including those that may start on one device and end on another.

4.  Keep Device Gestures Simple and Provide Ample Feedback

Most mobile devices are intended to be operated primarily through touchscreen input. These inputs can be simple such as one-finger tap or complicated multiple taps, or multiple fingers gestures. Gestures used to manage native apps should be as easy to execute as possible.  Complicated gesture control can be challenging for users with motor or dexterity impairments. 

Customized gestures are sometimes used as a more dependable replacement for disturbing confirmation dialogs. These actions may still benefit users with disabilities, so app designers should implement them as an alternative opinion.

5. Provide Easy ways for Data Entry

Multi-modal data entry is another trademark of mobile devices and native applications, in which users can input information in different ways, including the on-screen keyboard, wireless keyboard, and speech.

Entering text can be time-consuming and tricky for some users, but it can be displaced by other data entry methods.  All you need to do is reduce the amount of text entry required by implementing select menus, radio buttons, checkboxes, or by auto-filling information like date, time, and location.  As typing is a slow method of data entering, providing alternatives such as data sharing between apps, autofill, or even dictation improves the overall app experience and stops errors.

6. Double-Check Color Contrast

WCAG outlines general color contrast ratios that are satisfactory for most users, but additional attention must be paid to mobile devices and applications. Mobile devices are also used outdoors, where glares from the sun affect the ability to see the screen.

Using good contrast in your implementation is important for all users; bad contrast can intensify the challenges that people with reduced vision have when accessing content on mobile devices. Allowing varying contrast ratios for larger text is useful because wider character strokes are simpler to read at a lower contrast than narrower character strokes. This leaves designers more space for contrast, which is necessary for elements such as titles. But because app content is viewed on smaller screens and in different conditions, the allowance for reduced contrast on large text becomes complex. 

Executing  Accessible App Design and Development 

We understand that including all of these accessibility features in your app can be a challenge. That being said, it’s worth it in the long run. Trying your best to assist people with disabilities is just the right thing to do. By doing so, you’re also widening your rea and opening up your app to a new audience. When you execute your accessibility strategy, keep both website and application channels in mind, and implement the best practices shared here regarding screen size, touch targets, gestures, layout, data entry, and color contrast.

Evon Technologies is an offshore software consulting company that provides custom app development solutions. We have a dedicated team who design, code, and create your application to include all of the crucial areas of app accessibility required. If your organization decides on implementing the above checklist and achieve mobile app accessibility, then contact us today or drop an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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