People are more aware of website accessibility than ever before, but does this mean that mobile app owners also need to comply?
Since mobile apps have become an integral part of everyday life, they now fall under the “places of public accommodation” umbrella, making mobile app accessibility an essential consideration.
If you’re not yet familiar with WCAG for mobile apps, now is the best time. Title III of the ADA is what mobile app developers and owners should pay particular attention to as this section prohibits discrimination based on ability.
In this detailed guide, we will carefully unpack everything you need to know about WCAG 2.x for mobile apps, ensuring you can avoid unnecessary lawsuits and brand damage.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which all accessibility standards are based on, applies to both web pages and mobile applications, including native and hybrid apps. These guidelines provide detailed instructions on how website and app owners can make their platforms accessible to users with varying disabilities, ensuring they are not discriminated against in day-to-day life.
WCAG forms part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This initiative was created to ensure that disabled users don’t encounter any barriers when browsing websites and engaging with mobile apps, which are now an essential part of our lives.
When Should a Mobile App Be Accessible?
There are several instances when accessibility standards for mobile apps become a legal requirement:
1. Your mobile application is linked to a physical store or location.
2. A customer can only access your business or brand via the web.
3. Your mobile app is used by federal employees.
4. Your app offers advanced communications.
However, even if your app doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it’s still in your best interest to make it accessible – more on that a bit later.
Regulations that Determine Mobile App Accessibility
The regulations that determine whether and which mobile applications need to be accessible stem from a few different official acts and legal documents, the first of which is the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA states that places of public accommodation need to be accessible to everyone – websites and mobile apps are now considered to be places of public accommodation.
Then there’s the WCAG, which was mentioned earlier. These general guidelines have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and it’s what most of today’s website accessibility standards are based on, including those mentioned in the ADA.
Now that you have a better understanding of what mobile accessibility is and the laws surrounding it, you might be wondering whether mobile app accessibility is really all that important?
Let’s start with the fact that ADA lawsuits are increasing at an alarming rate globally. As accessibility awareness continues to increase, so do the number of demand letters. Avoiding costly and unnecessary lawsuits is one of the first reasons why you should make your mobile app accessible.
Then there’s the fact that an accessible app broadens your target audience. And a larger target audience naturally leads to more sales and increased brand loyalty.
Lastly, by making mobile app accessibility a priority, you are also doing your part to provide a better user experience and create a more inclusive society in general.
Who Needs an Accessible Mobile App?
You may not know this but a large percentage of users who have tried to download and engage with your app have a disability. And when they can’t use your app in the way they were hoping, they simply delete it, and your brand loses another customer.
The following people require an accessible mobile app:
People with cognitive impairments. This includes conditions such as ADD, dyslexia, and Alzheimer’s. These users are either easily distracted, or they cannot follow too many different screens or themes.
Users with visual impairments. This includes color blindness as well as partial and complete blindness. People with visual impairment rely on contrast and visual alternatives to process content.
People with auditory impairments. Anyone with partial or complete loss of hearing won’t be able to process all app content if it’s inaccessible – alternatives of auditory format are required.
Users with mobility impairments. Users with a mild or severe mobile impairment won’t be able to move dexterously or tap with purpose when using an app.
WCAG Principles That Apply to Mobile App Accessibility
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are based on 4 specific principles. It’s important to keep each of these principles in mind during the mobile app accessibility process.
Perceivable. Any information, as well as the components of your mobile app, needs to be presented in the most perceivable way possible.
Operable. Any app interface components, including the navigation, needs to be operable, regardless of ability.
Understandable. Any and all information and app functionality must be understandable to all users.
Robust. Lastly, all mobile app content must be robust enough to be easily interpreted by a range of different user agents, including assistive technologies.
Mobile Application Accessibility Checklist
When it comes to making sure your mobile app is accessible to disabled users, there are a few key aspects you should focus on. We’ve created this handy checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything important.
When designing any app, it’s important to remember that users will have different screen sizes. To accommodate those with smaller screens, you will need to keep information on each page to a minimum, adjust the position of form fields, and use a reasonable content size.
Since many mobile apps will be used outdoors and by disabled users, color contrast is an essential accessibility consideration. Text should have a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, while larger text should be at least 3:1.
Since text entry can be a tricky and time-consuming task for many users, it’s essential to provide easy methods for data entry. For one, you can reduce the amount of text required by adding checkboxes and auto-filling information such as the date and time. Providing autofill and data sharing functionality is also recommended.
Any information that’s present across multiple screens on your app should be consistent. Even if you need to place your navigation in a hamburger menu on certain screens, make sure the menu items are in the same order.
How to Ensure Your Mobile Apps are Accessible
Ready to start working on making your mobile application accessible? Let’s take a closer look at the most common accessibility issues you should look out for and the solutions available to make WCAG compliance easier.
Mobile App Testing Guidelines
Gian Wild is the person behind the Mobile Site and Native App Testing Methodology that app owners and developers use today. These accessibility testing standards are designed to be used in conjunction with WCAG and on real devices.
The 4 main testing methods that are used to test for mobile app accessibility include:
• Test on real mobile devices of different sizes
• Use tests that incorporate assistive technologies
• Test on responsive windows on a desktop device
• Test on a desktop device
Here are the general steps that you would follow when testing:
• Identify the devices you want to use for testing.
• Select the site type and variations. In the case of a native app, you would define app functionality in this step.
• Test for general accessibility issues.
• Test for mobile-specific accessibility issues.
• Test using mobile assistive technology.
Working through these steps and using each of the testing methods outlined above helps cover all your bases, ensuring you identify and fix as many accessibility issues as possible.
Who Can Make Your App Accessible for You?
Whether you don’t have the time or the technical know-how to make your mobile application accessible, solutions are available to make this process that much easier.
accessiBe comes highly recommended if you’re a mobile app owner that aims to prioritize accessibility this year. The platform works with you to meet the necessary ADA and WCAG compliance guidelines using advanced automated technology.
Web and mobile application accessibility is a major talking point right now and will continue to be as accessibility awareness continues to grow. Not only are mobile app users more aware of their rights, but legal firms are always on the lookout for websites and apps that don’t meet the necessary ADA and WCAG requirements.
Mobile app accessibility doesn’t need to be complicated, especially now that you have a handy checklist available, know what issues to look out for, and understand the testing methodologies you should use. What’s more, tools such as accessiBe are available to speed up and simplify the process.
Don’t leave things to chance. Rather take the necessary steps and ensure your mobile app is accessible to all, regardless of ability.
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