Mobile Accessibility: Importance, Legal Requirements & Considerations

Graphical picture of mobile accessibility

In today’s world, mobile phones have become an essential part of our lives. With approximately 6.92 billion smartphone users worldwide as of 2023, including about 270 million in the United States alone, their usage is widespread. However, despite the many benefits these devices offer, people with disabilities often face challenges with usability and accessibility when using mobile applications.

These challenges arise when websites and mobile apps lack the necessary accessibility features. This can make it difficult for users with disabilities to fully engage with digital content. By creating apps that are accessible to everyone, we can help ensure a smoother digital experience for all users, regardless of their abilities.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of mobile accessibility and discuss ways that businesses can incorporate it into their product development strategies.


What is Mobile Accessibility?

Mobile accessibility involves making mobile apps and websites usable for people with disabilities. The aim is to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, can have a smooth experience using these digital platforms.

While many websites are now optimized for mobile devices to provide a similar experience to desktop browsing, accessibility isn’t always a top priority in mobile development. Similarly, apps may offer accessibility features on desktops but face unique challenges on mobile devices.

There are some things about mobile devices that can make them hard to use for some people:

  • Small Screen Sizes: Limited space on screens can be tough for people with vision impairments.
  • 3D Touch and Pressure Sensors: Special features like 3D touch and pressure sensors can be tricky for users with hand tremors or sensitivity issues.
  • Sunlight Readability: Reading screens in sunlight is hard for most people, but it’s especially challenging for those with low vision.

It’s important to address these challenges so that everyone can have a good experience using mobile devices, no matter what their abilities are.


Who Needs an Accessible Mobile App?

It’s essential to understand that a significant number of app users may have disabilities. When these users encounter difficulties using your app due to accessibility issues, they may choose to uninstall it, resulting in a loss for your brand.

Here are some individuals who benefit from an accessible mobile app:

  1. People with cognitive impairments, such as ADD, dyslexia, and Alzheimer’s. These users may struggle with distractions or complex interfaces.
  2. Users with visual impairments, including those with color blindness, partial vision loss, or complete blindness. Providing options like high contrast and alternative text is important for helping them navigate the app effectively.
  3. Individuals with auditory impairments, such as partial or complete hearing loss. Offering alternatives to auditory content ensures inclusivity for these users.
  4. Users with mobility impairments, who may have difficulty with precise tapping or dexterity. Designing user-friendly interfaces and considering alternative input methods can accommodate their needs effectively.


Why Do Mobile Apps Need to Be Accessible?

1. Legal Responsibility

As smartphone and internet usage grows, ensuring digital accessibility is now a legal requirement, especially for individuals with disabilities. Neglecting mobile accessibility could lead to legal issues, such as discrimination lawsuits. It’s crucial to follow established laws and guidelines:

  • Section 508: This US law requires federal agencies and affiliated entities to ensure technology and electronic data are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates businesses to make electronic content accessible to people with disabilities.
  • WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a framework for making electronic content accessible to all users.


2. Brand Recognition and Customer Retention

Prioritizing mobile accessibility not only demonstrates legal compliance but also shows that your business cares about its customers and their needs. Embracing inclusivity fosters a diverse corporate culture, attracting potential collaborators and enhancing your brand’s reputation in the industry.

Moreover, improving accessibility enhances the customer experience for individuals with disabilities, leading to greater satisfaction and loyalty. By providing excellent customer service, businesses can build strong relationships with customers, leading to increased retention and long-term success.


3. Improves Business Success

By making your mobile applications accessible, you’re allowing a wider range of users to engage with your content through different formats like videos, audio, and written transcripts. This inclusivity means people facing challenges like aging, language barriers, or injuries can also access your content.

As a result, mobile accessibility helps expand your customer base, increasing the chances of boosting sales and profits for your products and services.


4. Meets Ethical Responsibilities

Recognizing the importance of inclusivity, enterprises need to ensure that their mobile applications and websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This reflects a fundamental ethical obligation in today’s society.

Creating accessible mobile products involves collaboration across different roles within the organization. Designers focus on inclusive design elements, developers work on language accessibility, and team members contribute to ensuring overall accessibility. This collective effort contributes to promoting inclusivity and equality for all users.


Legal Requirements and Guidelines for Mobile Apps:

Different countries and regions have their own rules about making mobile apps accessible. In the United States, laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act say that mobile apps should be usable by people with disabilities. These laws aim to prevent discrimination based on disability, even in places like websites and mobile apps. Section 508 focuses on federal agencies, making sure they make their tech accessible to people with disabilities.

Apart from legal requirements, organizations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provide guidelines for mobile app accessibility. The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer internationally recognized standards for ensuring web content accessibility, which can also be applied to mobile apps. These guidelines cover various aspects of accessibility, including, operable, understandable, perceivable, and robust design principles. Adhering to these guidelines enables app developers to ensure that their apps are accessible to a broad spectrum of users with disabilities.


4 Things to Consider When Making Your Mobile Applications Accessible


Testing for User-Responsive Design

Make sure your app allows users to adjust text size to suit their preferences. By using a responsive design approach during development, your app can adapt its layout based on the size and orientation of the user’s device and their specific needs. As users expand the dimensions of your application, its elements should dynamically adapt to ensure a seamless and user-friendly interface. Using responsive design techniques ensures that enlarging the font size doesn’t disrupt the layout and usability of the app.


Testing for Usability

Before launching, it’s important for development teams to thoroughly evaluate their applications for usability, functionality, and security. While developer testing tools are helpful, involving individuals with disabilities in user testing is one of the best ways to ensure app accessibility. Engaging people with disabilities in testing helps identify accessibility challenges, allowing you to address them before the app is released. Additionally, collaborating with accessibility experts improves an app’s compliance and user experience.


Testing for Color Contrast

Use color contrast testing tools for websites and mobile apps to assess the readability of text and the contrast of visual elements like buttons and indicators.


Testing for Screen Reader

Screen reader software is crucial for blind users to access digital content. Watching how screen reader software interacts with a mobile site is important for developers and designers to identify any barriers or issues that may hinder users from accessing and navigating content effectively.


Closing Thoughts

By prioritizing mobile accessibility, we can unlock a world where everyone, regardless of ability, can seamlessly interact with the digital landscape. This not only fulfills a legal and ethical obligation, but also fosters brand loyalty, expands your customer base, and ultimately contributes to a more inclusive society. As technology continues to evolve, let’s strive to create mobile experiences that are not just functional, but universally accessible. Let’s ensure that the power of mobile technology is available to everyone.

Check out Continual Engine for accessibility solutions!


Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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