Accessibility for your mobile apps: lowering the bars

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App AccessibilityIt was during my first job at a Dutch banking corporation that I got familiarised with all the effort and knowledge that is required to properly test and develop software to increase accessibility for your products and/or services.

There I learned about tools that help you check and prepare your product for people that need aids to control their computer. On why alternative text attributes must be applied for screen reader tools. And about how the contrast and font can help people with color- or vision challenges to use your website.


But somehow I forgot.
I forgot that to make your solution usable and enjoyable for everyone – not just the masses – your product needs extra effort. You need to understand what challenges people might face and how one can take action to improve their experience and support the tools they might use as an answer to their challenges.

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It’s too easy to build for the masses because you can sell it to yourself or your customers easily: the masses provide the most social media coverage and the masses is where the money is at.

Recently I got triggered by some good posts with pointers on how to make your mobile app more accessible. And they made me wonder if the popular mobile platforms have tools and decent information on how to reach a better accessibility grade.  I’m glad to have found resources and that we – as developers – are not left in the dark.

But then again, when is a crowd big enough to take into consideration? Several studies from the last decade indicated that there are actually a LOT of people with disabilities using online services. I cannot imagine that a lot of them is also using mobile services and apps. The myth of the minority user is one example of an eye-opening research indicating that there are more people with vision disabilities in the USA browsing the web then that there are Canadians. Red-green color blindness affects up to 8% of males and 0.5% of females of Northern European descent. As this post shows, even a conservative estimate reveals there are 15.5 million potential customers with hearing or sight impairments.

In this post I’ve collected a bunch of links to platform best practises, tools and services. Because the easier it is for you to find and use those resources, the more likely your app will be more accessible.

Check out the resource overview and get yourself some knowhow to make your app accessible.

Creating a developer culture where addressing accessibility issues is stimulated and embedded in the development process would make a huge difference. And making clear that your app has put in the effort can be a win-win for both developers and the app users too. Think about the exposure on websites or the extra revenue because people want to use your app.
There is nothing wrong with you reaching out to organizations, the press or online communities and use it as a marketing thing.

But when you’re at it why not create a culture that embraces responsibility, one that applauds the effort of accessibility. Make it an effort that only creates winners: companies that help people to get more access to your services and needs and effort that show that you’re a company that cares. Because only when you create a culture that genuinely embraces a path to walk down and has everyone behind the way you’re walking down that path, you’re not giving it all you got.

In this post i’ve gathered some of the resources, tools and tips that help you educate yourself on improving accessibility. I hope this post will help you to get a first grasp at what comes looking when you want to improve your service and when you want to reach out to more people.

Let’s start by educating ourselves so we can give mobile apps that so much-needed accessibility boost. Start by implementing the quick win tips from the resources in this post and work yourself up to the biggest improvements one can make.

Let me know if and how this post helps you or if you have even better resources or links for me to add. Use the links and let them help you stretch your definition of serving people with your product and become a better developer. I’m curious about your thoughts.

My favorite resource: Check out the Mobile App Accessibility Handbook in the Generic Resources listing by the Hong Kong government. Although it is focussing at accessibility for mobile web apps it has quite some pointers and a great overview on accessibility issues that one needs to address in native / hybrid apps as well. Complements for the The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region well deserved!

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iOS 10
iOS Resources

 

Android


Android Resources

 

Windows 10


Windows 10 Resources

 

Accessibility


Generic Accessibility Resources

 

  • Cordova plugin: phonegap-mobile-accessibility (This plugin exposes information on the status of various accessibility features of mobile operating systems)
  • Ionicframework forum post: This forum post is listing gulp and browser plugin tools that can be used for accessibility testing