Native mobile apps have become some of the most important tools today. With the major changes in the world brought about by the global health situation, we at ADA Site Compliance recognize the necessity of accessible apps on mobile phones. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of mobile accessibility, how to create accessible native mobile apps, and various tips crucial in app development and implementation.
As mobile app technology continuously evolves, accessibility remains a top feature. Mobile accessibility provides critical assistance to users and allows them to use any device to create, collaborate, and communicate. They are also designed to serve individuals with impairments in speech, vision, color perception, hearing, literacy, and with cognitive disabilities.
In this era of mobile development and innovations, accessible apps are a critical component of user satisfaction. Native applications are software applications created using a particular programming language specific to a device platform. This completely utilizes the processor and other system resources, rendering it faster and more flexible compared with other app types.
The Benefits Of App Accessibility
A lot of companies are willing to invest in the development of native accessible mobile apps because it has benefits that make them worth the cost and the effort. Both Google and Apple provide app owners and developers of mobile apps with the tools necessary for developing applications for Android and iOS, such as development tools, SDK, and interface components. Building accessible native mobile apps offer the following benefits:
During accessible app development, the app is made and optimized for a particular platform, which allows it to demonstrate an exceptionally high-performance level. It is built for a specific platform and compiled using the core programming language and the API of the platform. This makes the app fast, quick to load, responsive, and very efficient.
More interactive and intuitive
Access to the full features of the device
Since they are specific to the platform, the apps have direct access to the various hardware that comes with them. Native app developers are then able to take advantage of the entire features of the device’s operating system and software. When these are maximized, the application is quicker, which naturally translates to improved accessibility features.
Better hardware integration
Native apps are able to easily access the hardware features of the device, such as the camera and GPS, which offers an improved user experience. There is also UI consistency since they are able to preserve the aspect ratio across all devices. Since the whole UI is standard in native apps, app developers are able to implement standards and best practices in creating them.
App developers are able to configure native apps quickly. This is because the apps are compatible with the single platform they are created for. Likewise, there are fewer limitations, which makes scaling remarkably easier.
Both iOS and Android constantly assist and improve the whole platform for app developers and users. Due to this, native apps are more stable in terms of development, use, and maintenance. As a result, the apps will perform seamlessly and there will be fewer glitches and crashes.
Native mobile apps are more secure because they are protected by the different layers of an OS. The apps also make use of the official APIs that have been evaluated across a variety of system versions and they likewise do not rely on any third-party system, which makes the native apps difficult to abuse or misuse. There are also less frequent platform launches compared with the framework variety, so developers can expect a reliable, thoroughly assessed, and more secure system.
With all these benefits offered by native mobile apps, it’s only sensible to take up the subsequent matter of creating them with integrated accessibility. Accessible native mobile apps are extremely important for any web developer or organization as it ensures a seamless and satisfactory experience for all types of users. Below are eight tips to consider during accessible native mobile app development.
8 Tips To Remember When Creating Accessible Native Mobile Apps
Disabled people such as those who have visual impairments, color blindness, motor impairments, and cognitive limitations can have successful and satisfactory interactions with an app, it must be created with accessibility in mind. There are several ways to achieve this. The following are some of the most important ones.
1. Offer a simple way for data entry.
Entering text can be a time-consuming and difficult task for some users. Provide alternatives that make the process faster and simpler. Minimize the amount of time needed to enter text by including features like auto-filling familiar information, select menus, or checkboxes.
2. Factor in varied screen sizes.
When developing native apps, take screen sizes into account since some phones come with small screens or are designed with low to medium-density screens. Create a responsive website or a dedicated mobile website to lessen the amount of information. Analyze how to screen elements scale and appear in various layouts while maximizing small screen space.
3. Make navigation easy.
Navigation is how users find their way around, which is especially important for users who need verbal and motion feedback features. Layout consistency is fundamental and it should be easy to use even by blind users. Mobile navigation defines the entire structure of web apps with substantive functionality, so it must be accessible and discoverable.
4. Incorporate varied contrast.
Many devices used today have screens that are lower in contrast and in resolution. When creating an accessible app, enhance its usability by creating a high-contrast interface with font size and color contrast features designed with accessibility. This will cater to the needs of users who prefer to keep their devices at lower brightness for battery preservation, have low vision, and are in areas where high contrast interfaces are a necessity.
5. Create robust content.
Develop content robust and clear enough to enable agents like users and assistive technologies to reliably interpret it. This will accommodate various needs and preferences of mobile app users no matter where the content is accessed. Also, refer to web content accessibility guidelines and update the content as technology progresses.
6. Make use of native components.
Take advantage of native components when designing an accessible app, especially since these are more familiar. These components should enable characteristics that allow appropriate functionality when users interact with accessible tools in the mobile app. When using the components, make sure to use them as intended to prevent the disruption of the coherent flow that enables accessibility.
7. Provide confirmation dialogues for important tasks.
Confirmation dialogues are very important when users take significant action on their apps such as making a purchase or deleting items. This will verify that the user indeed made that specific action. It will also give them the chance to undo it if it was done accidentally and, thus, avoid unpleasant consequences.
8. Test your mobile app thoroughly.
The quality of a mobile app is assured by getting it tested comprehensively prior to its deployment. Testing, especially by a group of individuals with various disabilities, will determine if all accessibility tools are functioning correctly. It will ascertain if users will have a satisfactory customer experience.
Implementing Mobile App Accessibility
Once accessibility features are integrated, the next step is to talk about best practices in its implementation. It is extremely important that the accessible mobile app is indeed accessible, especially by users with impairments. Below are a few of the most common accessibility issues to watch out for when implementing accessible mobile apps.
Absence of validation error messages
There are native apps that do not make validation error messages accessible to screen readers, which are used by those with visual impairments to convert visual information into another form, such as reading the text aloud. App developers must make sure that error messages, as well as options to fix the problem, are spoken aloud so that blind users are alerted to it and can proceed with the necessary fixes. For sighted users, there should be a red message that appears whenever the user submits invalid information into a form.
Incorrect implementation of hamburger menus and accordions
Hamburger menus and accordion design components that are wrongly coded can cause visually impaired users to experience accessibility issues. The hamburger menu icon is made up of three stacked horizontal lines usually positioned on the far left or right of the mobile screen. The accordion is a design element that enlarges in place to display hidden information.
Non-functional pinch-to-zoom tool
For the visually impaired, the pinch-to-zoom tool is very useful. It allows them to zoom in on content through the standard and simple two-finger gesture that expands text and images. This element should always be included in the accessibility features.
Images with missing alternative text
Alternative text should be provided for all images in the accessible app in order to impart their meaning to users of screen readers. The short, descriptive alternative text must be present since screen readers are not designed to translate images into words. The alternative text must provide content descriptions and the purpose of the image.
Wrong usage of WAI-ARIA
The Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) provides pointers on making apps more accessible to users with disabilities and determines new ways to provide functionality for assistive technology. This allows web developers to create advanced web apps that people with impairments can access and use. But because of the complexity associated with WAI-ARIA specifications, it is, therefore, critical for app developers to be educated and have a better understanding of WAI-ARIA.
Testing Mobile App Accessibility
Mobile app accessibility testing is very essential and we strongly recommend it because it brings an alternative perspective on the accessibility of an app. But more importantly, accessibility testing is required by law. Testing for accessibility by more users also uncovers opportunities for app versatility for all types of users.
There are different methods to test app accessibility: manual, automated, and user testing, as well as testing with analysis tools. One excellent way to uncover possible accessibility issues is to integrate auditing tools into the development process. This lessens the issues that can potentially turn up during the testing phase.
Manual testing involves interacting with the app to test accessibility services while automated accessibility testing also tests the usability of an app and helps identify issues early. User testing involves getting feedback from real users who utilize the app. In testing with analysis tools, the tools are used to detect opportunities to improve the accessibility of the app.
Through mobile application accessibility, people with disabilities can satisfactorily use a mobile app and its features as intended without going through any obstacle that can affect their experience. Facilitate their needs by creating mobile phone apps that adhere to set standards and accommodate different types of disabilities. The goal is to make the app experience the most users as smooth as possible.
Mobile application accessibility is crucial for the success of an accessible app among a wide variety of users. It creates delightful experiences that result in user satisfaction and loyalty. More importantly, mobile app accessibility enables disabled individuals to conveniently access and use the app content they need in an equal manner, no matter their capability.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.