Often overlooked, making apps and software accessible to those with disabilities is an essential part of contemporary mobile app design. With 1 in 5 UK citizens living with an impairment or disability, it is vitally important to ensure that all segments of your customer base are catered for.
So, what are some prerequisites that need to be brought into your design and some key elements that can be added to a platform in order to draw the most benefit?
What does the law say
Rightly, the UK government has been very clear that accessibility should be a key part of contemporary design practice. Formally introduced to the UK in September 2018, the government introduced regulations stating that any public-facing service software must meet a high level of accessibility requirements. These include hitting AA standard when it comes to working with Web content, ensuring compliance with a range of assistive technologies, have a dedicated accessibility page, and being able to prove that your software was user-tested by people with disabilities.
While these standards only apply to ‘public-facing’ bodies, they act as a solid example of what other companies could and should strive to do. While your software may not fall under the specific category of ‘service providers’, many businesses are required to demonstrate that ‘reasonable adjustments’ have been made to your projects in order to ensure the highest standards of accessibility throughout the population.
One of the key elements of modern compliance is the concept of ‘need’ – extending beyond conventional disability to a range of other variables. This can be as simple as supporting users at a range of physical location, such as a busy restaurant with audio disruption or properties with intermittent Wi-Fi. This can include temporary health impairments due to injury or using equipment that is below spec, deploys an older browser, or has out-of-date firmware.
This makes designing for disability, impairment and ‘need’ an essential part of any future project work. While failure to comply is not mandatory, allowing issues to remain unaddressed in your software design will increase your likelihood of complaints and poor public image.
What should be addressed?
Some of the most common issues levelled at software accessibility include-
Visual and auditory impairment:
Individuals with limited vision, partial hearing or colour blindness need to be addressed. This can be as simple as providing the option to increase the font size for those that are hard of hearing or choosing a friendly font for those that live with dyslexia the condition. Relying on tests that ask the reader to identify colours can be difficult and adding a speech-to-text feature can help. Deploying a distinctive theme, high contrast images can also provide benefit to all system users and ensure that the app or software is easy to navigate.
Those with physical impairments can find it difficult to use a touchscreen or physical keyboards. Deploying shortcuts, sticky-key functionality, or voice commands can help users interact with your software more effectively. The platform should also be regularly updated to ensure that any assistive devices can be easily used with the software.
Members of the public with learning issues, brain damage, or ADD may find it hard to retain large amounts of information or their location or ‘purpose’ on a page. This should include an option for quick navigation and allow the user to bookmark and save key pages. This can prevent them from getting distracted or frustrated – saving time, effort, and frustration.
Disabilities come in many forms and what would be a small obstacle in the user journey for some users can be a sizable hurdle for others. This means that your overall user experience and layouts should be uniform across tablets, smart devices, and computers. This should possess an ability to remap icons and layouts for pages – allowing the user to tailor the system to prevent their disability from being an obstacle to enjoying your service.
If you want to learn more about similar topics, you can check out our regularly updated blog for further information. Alternatively, you can contact our dedicated in-house team directly and let us know exactly what you need.