The majority of internet users are now on smartphones. From online shopping and bookings to studies, social media, and entertainment; we have now become dependent on smartphones. Mobile internet has become essential for almost everyone to lead a normal and comfortable life. As per Statista, mobile data consumption per month will go over 75 exabytes.
Hence, it has become essential for businesses to make their mobile apps and websites accessible to differently-abled users. At 15 percent of the global population being differently-abled, it is also a massive untapped business opportunity for organizations. A lot of global campaigns are also trying to make people aware and sensitize them about the need of accessibility in digital solutions.
While businesses are now working to develop accessible digital assets, there is not a specific focus making mobile apps accessible. Mobile accessibility was majorly dependent on web application accessibility standards. However, things are now changing for good. The revised WCAG 2.1 guidelines have set the primary focus on mobile accessibility as this segment is witnessing brisk growth. Why? Because around 95 percent of Android apps violate accessibility guidelines.
Aside, the majority of the applications come with potential violations and around 66 percent of apps have warnings. Also, most of the apps suffer from normal accessibility issues at the GUI levels or a layer under, at the Symantec level. These issues are most commonly no element description, focus related issues, inappropriate spacing, text to color ratio, and element or font size. However, these issues can be fixed easily and can increase the accessibility score of the application significantly. It is not a big challenge, however, businesses need to be motivated to bring accessibility into their business process.
Latest WCAG 2.1 Guidelines
When you closely monitor WCAG 2.1 for mobile accessibility, you will find out that it is centered around input modalities and screen orientation. Some of the criteria worth mentioning are labels in name, pointer gestures, motion actuation, pointer cancellation, and support for different orientations. WCAG 2.1 has considered all types of disabilities to ensure accessible mobile apps in all scenarios.
For instance, pointer gestures direct that just pinch or swipe should not be the only action to give input to a touchscreen device. Pointer cancellation is meant to cancel the pointers once they are revoked on the screen. You can easily implement the label in name feature to make sure that the visual text label is same as the programmatic level. It makes it easier for screen reader users to perceive exactly what is present on the application.
Mobile apps are equipped with specific motions to add sophistication and flexibility. However, users should get the option to disable these features wherever required while achieving results from the same functionality. In a nutshell, it is the same to what we achieve with desktop applications i.e. making them completely accessible via keyboards. The accessibility criteria also advises the need of making applications accessible and visible in both landscape and portrait modes.
These accessibility criteria are meant to make user experience more efficient and engaging on smartphones for people of all types of disabilities.
Automation in Accessibility
As per the new accessibility criteria, engineering and design teams to keep accessibility in mind from the starting to develop highly accessible applications. And to achieve real accessibility, proper functioning of assistive tools also becomes important. Herein, AI and automation can help. For instance, machine learning (ML) based speech recognition software is enabling mobile accessibility to become more efficient and accurate.
Aside, screen readers are also becoming more sophisticated and capable of figuring out the complex Alt text and giving a human-touch while reading out text from the screen. Test automation in accessibility has also become a reality. It has enabled businesses to roll out accessible apps at a faster pace. With automation in accessibility, you can save the manual resources to work on more business-critical tasks and leave the testing to computers.
As the number of differently-abled smartphone users is increasing at a rapid pace and stricter government compliance at a global level is being enforced, it has become crucial for businesses to create highly accessible mobile phone apps. Automation and AI in accessibility will make it easier for developers and test engineers to create a highly intuitive and engaging mobile application for differently-abled.
Embedding accessibility right at the start of the project is cost-efficient and can be implemented easily as well. Also, having an accessible mobile or web app can also help businesses increase their bottom line by attracting differently-abled users as their customers, therein also benefiting on people with disabilities user experiences.