App Accessibility: What is it and why is it important?
· Chris Lynch · 4 min read · June 22, 2021
What is App Accessibility?
App accessibility refers to making a mobile or web app accessible to people with disabilities by using features such as larger texts, consistent layout and colour contrast, amongst other things.
Many apps on the market are not fully optimised to be accessible, but the need for inclusive apps is becoming crucial.
Why does my app need to be accessibility optimised?
Optimising the accessibility of your app offers several benefits, not only does it allow people living with disabilities to use your app but it also increases your audience reach.
Whilst making your app more accessible is always a positive thing, depending on your industry it may be a requirement. In 2018 the UK Government implemented new regulations regarding the accessibility of mobile apps and websites in the public sector. This meant that if organisations such as local councils or publicly-funded education institutions weren’t meeting these requirements they could be found to be breaking the law.
Is my app accessible?
If accessibility isn’t something you’ve given too much thought about before then you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start, here’s a few simple things you can do:
Keep it simple
When it comes to accessibility, simplicity is key. Crowded designs make apps difficult to navigate and can put users off, keep in mind the areas that will be used the most such as call to action buttons and menus. It’s also good to think about how people with visual impairments will need to use your app - your app needs to work when zoomed in as well as on a variety of screen sizes.
Consistency is key
An easy to follow design is great at helping users to navigate your app, but you need to ensure that the same design is used throughout the app. Keeping things like menu bars, contact forms and call to action buttons in the same place will help to improve the accessibility of your app.
Focus on touch points
Touch points are one of the most crucial things to think about when it comes to accessibility. If your app is going to be used on different platforms you need to ensure you have a thorough testing process and your app can be easily optimised. The placement of things such as images, call to action buttons and menus needs to be carefully considered at this point.
Test, test and test some more
You’re never really going to know how accessible your app is until it’s live and being used. Thoroughly testing your app will help you determine if you’ve successfully implemented the right, or enough accessibility features.
There are many ways you can test your app, one of the best ways of testing is through focus groups. This way is particularly helpful for testing accessibility. Try using individual groups of people to test single elements of your app.
How to improve app accessibility
Ensuring your app is accessible is a group effort. It requires buy in from the whole team, stakeholders and organisations. If accessibility is not seen as a priority it will fall by the wayside.
Below we have outlined some of the methods and tools you can incorporate into your workflow to ensure that your app becomes accessible.
Utilise frameworks and tools when designing accessible interfaces. If you use Figma or XD you can use a handy tool called STARK to check the contrast ratio of designs. If you want to see how colour-blind users will view your product, you can use the Colour Blind plugin.
Copy is also important when designing your product. We like the guideline from Invision on writing accessible microcopy, which outlines how designers should craft copy around screen readers.
iOS developers can use the Accessibility Inspector in XCode to audit and flag UI elements.
There isn’t an Accessibility Inspector equivalent for Android developers, but you can run accessibility checks to your existing Espresso tests. Here is a link on how to do that: Accessibility Checking
Tools such as TalkBack and VoiceOver allow you to test how screen readers read out content. You will have to get familiar with the gestural navigation when you use these tools - Android has an on-device tutorial for you to follow which is very handy.
You can also check how accessible font sizes look in your app. All you have to do is go into your device settings and make sure that the font sizes are scaled up.
Below we have provided you with a list of tools and frameworks that you and your team can use:
- TalkBack - Screen reader for Android
- VoiceOver - Screen reader for iOS
- STARK - Contrast checker plugin
- Colour Blind - Colour blind visualiser plugin
- Accessibility Inspector - An accessibility audit tool for iOS developers
- Human Interface Guidelines
- Material Guidelines
- Government Digital Services