Mobile app accessibility ensures that users receive an equivalent experience, regardless of their abilities. It’s a fundamental part of inclusive design: To make your app work for a wide range of users, you’ll need to consider how people with disabilities interact with your content.
Whether you’re designing a native app, a web app, or a hybrid, the principles of digital accessibility can help you create a better product (and avoid costly accessibility remediations).
Below, we’ll explain why accessibility is an essential component of your mobile design strategy. To start incorporating the best practices, send us a message and connect with an expert.
Mobile accessibility is a legal requirement
A growing number of business owners understand that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requires organizations to offer accessible online content. While the number of ADA web accessibility lawsuits continues to increase year-over-year, organizational leaders are directing more resources to digital compliance.
But while website accessibility is essential, mobile app accessibility is also required under Title III of the ADA. In one high-profile case, Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, courts determined that the pizza chain’s mobile app fulfilled the ADA’s definition of “services of a public accommodation.”
And over the next few months, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to finalize a rule that establishes clear technical requirements for mobile app and web accessibility under Title II of the ADA. While Title II doesn’t apply to private businesses, the new rule could help plaintiffs identify barriers in mobile app content.
Put simply, all organizations have a legal responsibility to make their mobile apps accessible. Of course, that’s not the only reason to embrace accessibility — but for many businesses, it’s a powerful incentive.
Accessibility cuts the cost of mobile development
If you’re making the case for an accessible mobile app, it’s helpful to focus on the benefits of inclusive design.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the consensus international standards for digital accessibility (and an excellent framework for improving compliance with the ADA and other non-discrimination laws). But while WCAG is a technical document, it doesn’t put extensive limitations on mobile app developers — in fact, it reinforces best practices.
Following WCAG can help you reduce the long-term costs of your product and help you reach more users:
- WCAG requires accurate semantic markup. When your app has appropriate semantics, it works with a wider range of technologies — and you can add new features and update existing features more easily.
- WCAG requires content to reflow (in other words, WCAG requires responsive design). Mobile app content that isn’t responsive won’t work reliably on different screens, so prioritizing reflow is crucial.
- WCAG requires that when features require pointer gestures, the feature can be operated with a single pointer (with no path-based gesture). Following this requirement ensures that content works for a greater range of users.
Other WCAG criteria are more specific to users with certain types of disabilities — but again, they reinforce best practices. For example, adding alternative text (also called alt text) for visual content doesn’t take much time, but helps your product work for people who use screen readers and text-to-speech apps.
Consider accessibility from day one when planning your mobile app
Every app has users with disabilities. Ignoring those customers doesn’t make sense: If your product isn’t functional for 25% of your potential audience, that’s a problem you need to address.
And while many website accessibility issues can be addressed easily, that’s not necessarily true for mobile-specific content. To follow WCAG — and provide your users with the best possible experience — you’ll need to think about accessibility from the first stages of development.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility can help. With onsite training and self-paced digital accessibility courses, we provide developers with the resources they need to develop an accessibility-first mindset. Our experts can also audit mobile apps for WCAG conformance, provide guidance for remediations, and identify the best methods for addressing specific accessibility challenges.