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Improve Mobile Website and App Accessibility

Nov 5, 2018

Thanks to greater visibility for disability rights issues, and more initiatives to address them, website accessibility has significantly improved in the past few years. Still, not everyone realizes that web accessibility isn’t just a concern for users of desktop computers and laptops. “Mobile accessibility” refers to efforts to make websites and mobile apps more accessible to people with disabilities using mobile devices.

People, including people with disabilities, access the Internet in many different ways — and people are increasingly preferring to use their mobile devices for many activities. In a 2016 Pew study, 58 percent of people with disabilities reported owning a smartphone (70 percent for those under the age of 65), and 36 percent of them had a tablet. In order to ensure that people with disabilities can adopt mobile technologies at the rate they prefer, considerably greater attention needs to be paid to mobile website and app accessibility.

Why is mobile accessibility important?

In November 2016, mobile Internet use passed desktop computers for the first time. Since then, the growth has only continued: two years later, mobile devices account for 63 percent of all website visits. With a clear upward trend, mobile accessibility initiatives may arguably apply to more people than desktop accessibility in the future.

As the Internet continues to become a more mobile-friendly place (and more friendly to people with disabilities), mobile accessibility initiatives will become increasingly important. A major, all-too-common mistake is testing for accessibility on a desktop only.

Read: Common Web Accessibility Myths

Mobile accessibility guidelines

Many of the same suggestions outlined in web accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), also apply to mobile accessibility. For example:

  • Users should be able to resize text up to 200 percent without using third-party assistive technology.
  • Color contrast ratios between foreground and background should be sufficient for both large and small text.

However, there are also a number of mobile-specific accessibility best practices, such as:

  • Touch targets should be large in order to accommodate people with motor disabilities, and have enough space between other elements of the interface.
  • Touch gestures should be as simple as possible. Demonstrate how to use touch gestures with on-screen indicators.

For more information and tips on mobile accessibility, download the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s mobile accessibility definitive checklist.

WCAG 2.1 and mobile accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most popular and well-established recommendations for web accessibility. The most recent version of the guidelines, WCAG 2.1, were released in June 2018 and include several new provisions for mobile accessibility.

Two WCAG 2.1 success criteria (SC) that are explicitly intended for mobile devices are:

  • SC 1.3.4 (Orientation): Content cannot be restricted to a particular device orientation, such as portrait or landscape, unless it is absolutely essential to do so.
  • SC 2.5.4 (Motion Actuation): Unless absolutely essential, features that are activated through user motion must be accessible through a user interface as well. In addition, motion-activated features can be disabled to avoid accidental activation.

Is your mobile website or app accessible?

Mobile accessibility for websites can be a complex topic, but it doesn’t have to be daunting to building mobile experiences that everyone can use. The best thing anyone can do to achieve compliance is to account for accessibility from the very beginning. And of course, we can help by thoroughly testing and providing remediation suggestions for existing websites and mobile apps. To learn more about mobile accessibility and all the ways we can help you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance, talk to us. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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