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5 Tips to Improve Mobile Accessibility

Mar 19, 2017

When it comes to improving mobile accessibility, there are many considerations to make for an optimal user experience. Improving accessibility for all of your unique end users who face challenges using your app is an ongoing journey — but one with many benefits. Regardless of the hardware, framework, and operating system used to develop or access your app, there are five simple ways that you can improve mobile accessibility.

1. Publish a statement of your commitment to increasing mobile accessibility.

Even if you have only just begun behind-the-scenes work on accessibility issues, it's important to let your users know that you have the intent to make your app more accessible. Describe what you are doing and what specific features and functions you are addressing. Use this as an opportunity to get feedback from your users to find out where and how they’re experiencing difficulties, with and without the use of assistive technology.

2. Perform a quick accessibility check.

Accessibility checks can be performed with visual and screen reader tests. Here are some key questions your check should answer:

  • Are there options to increase the size of text?
  • Do you have an option within your app for more information about accessibility and a way to source feedback from users about accessibility options?
  • Is there an easily found help or information button or link?
  • Does your app work in both landscape and portrait orientations?
  • Are buttons large and spaced out enough to press without accidentally pressing the wrong ones?
  • Are there any instructions or other crucial features that reference colors (such as "Read the green text" or "Push the red button")?
  • When testing with a screen reader: Does the app still make sense with the words being spoken? Are actions easily executable without being able to see the screen?

3. Keep your user interface as simple to use and understand as possible.

Keep the amount of information that needs to be typed in to a minimum, and keep buttons as large and spaced out as possible. Consider adding a "back" button to your interface so that users can easily go back to their previous screen.

Any actions that the user can take should be easily discoverable so that they aren’t stumbled upon by accident or mistakenly selected because their options weren’t visually obvious. To this end, avoid making colors the only distinguishable factor when referring to instructions and navigating the app.

4. Ensure screen reader experiences are logical and clear.

Input fields should be read in a logical order with sufficient description for each field. Images need to have thorough descriptions, as do any buttons, sliders, and other objects that normally appear on the screen. Carefully choose acronyms and special characters so that they are being read back correctly.

5. Facilitate customization of text and themes.

Colorblind and visually-impaired users need to be able to change the text size as well as the colors of text, backgrounds, and other important visual elements. Putting this feature in a place where it is easy to find and use creates a better user experience and more legible text. Also consider screen width as well as including text zoom buttons on the page.

Once you've employed these initial tips, you'll be on your way to improving and maintaining accessibility, but it will be an ongoing journey, similar to app development in general. However, by making your apps available and valuable to a wider audience, you are creating a better experience for all users while simultaneaously benefiting from increased exposure.

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