Accessibility in Application Development

November 21, 2023 Web development

Accessibility in app development is an approach whose main purpose is to develop a software product that people with different abilities can equally access and use.  Accessibility apps not only solve the problem for users with special needs but also make the user experience more intuitive and easy to use for everyone. 

Accessibility testing for mobile apps is important because it allows you to expand your target audience, improve UX, and comply with industry standards. In some industries, compliance with accessibility standards (e.g., WCAG) is a must.

Accessibility is not only about developing the app according to standards but also about making sure the product functions according to those standards. This means accessibility testing should be part of the overall product quality assurance process. Be it an internal team or external software testing services, accessibility should be treated equally with functional and non-functional requirements.

Going on, you will learn about the benefits of accessibility in app development, the limitations that occur during automated accessibility testing, and how manual testing helps to ensure the platform has a high level of accessibility.

Accessibility in App Development and Its Benefits

Improving the accessibility of the application doesn’t just mean making it more user-friendly. It also addresses other areas that are important for every business owner.

  • Compliance with legal regulations. A lot of countries in the world have adopted laws and regulations regarding accessibility. In the United States, for example, you must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the European Union, you will have to obey the European Accessibility Act. Developing apps that comply with the laws can eliminate the chances of getting sued or fined.
  • Broader audience reach. Creating an accessible app can help you reach more users and win their loyalty to your brand.
  • Cost-savings. Developing an app with a high level of accessibility from the start can save you a lot of time in the long run. The trends show that accessibility is becoming a must in many areas and industries, meaning you’ll need to align your app with the standards sooner or later. Therefore, making an app more accessible in the finished product can be way more expensive than incorporating accessibility from scratch.

The question arises: how can you be sure your current app or the app you are developing has the necessary level of accessibility? Well, you can consider an easier way — automated accessibility testing. But still, it may have certain drawbacks. Let’s look at them closer.

Limitations of Automated Accessibility Testing

Tools for automated accessibility testing help detect accessibility issues your app may have. And while these instruments offer many pros, they also have several cons. 

  • Limited flexibility. Usually, accessibility web testing tools follow specific algorithms and cannot work efficiently in complicated and intricately entwined cases.
  • Lack of critical assessment. AI-supported instruments are unable to estimate the content in terms of interaction with real users. They are programmed to read code and not context in general.
  • Lack of specific solution. Indeed, automated audits will uncover the issues. However, such tools will not always provide you with a proper solution to your specific problem. The majority of them provide generic answers.

Even though automated accessibility testing is profitable in terms of time and cost savings, human input is still needed. 

The Importance of Human Insight in Accessibility Testing

The main purpose of the application is to serve people with certain goals. You can use AI-powered tools that will uncover common issues. But AI will never look at your product considering human factors. 

Who else can more accurately bring the problems to the surface than someone with disabilities? Thus, manual testing images or context is a way effective!

Key Areas to Review in Manual Accessibility Testing

To conduct an effective accessibility check for your application, here are the areas you should primarily pay attention to:

  • Keyboard navigations. Many people with disabilities don’t use a mouse when searching the platform. And it is important to find out whether your app provides easy navigation from page to page or offers alternative methods to fill in the fields. 
  • Screen reader compatibility. For people with eye problems, using special tools to read content is a must. So your app should be compliant with them.
  • Colors and readability. If you look at the screen and can easily catch a text, it doesn’t mean a reader or scanner can easily recognize the text.
  • Dynamic content and interactive components. If you provide dynamic and interactive components that can change depending on the user’s response, make sure they are also accessible.

Developing an Effective Manual Accessibility Testing Strategy

When building a strategy for successful manual accessibility testing, bear in mind the following steps:

  1. Review accessibility guidelines. Look through the testing guidelines, like WCAG or ADA web content accessibility guidelines, and depending on the platform, iOS or Android instructions. Performing web content accessibility guidelines test throughout the whole testing journey will help you catch any accessibility issues.
  2. Create a testing checklist. Based on the key areas for manual accessibility testing, create a list of the things to examine.
  3. Involve users with disabilities. People with special needs can tell you directly what your app lacks.
  4. Test on multiple devices and platforms. Make sure your app is available and easily accessed in different environments.
  5. Continuously improve. Stay tuned to all the changes to comply with new technologies, standards, and users’ needs.

Tools and Techniques for Manual Accessibility Testing

If you are wondering which accessibility tool for web development to use, take a look at some we prepared below:

  • Screen-reader testing. Put yourself in the shoes of customers who use assistive screen reading tools like JAWS (Windows), NVDA (Windows), VoiceOver (macOS, iOS), or TalkBack (Android).
  • Color contrast checkers. Use WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker or Color Contrast Analyzer (CCA) for manual testing to check whether the color contrast complies with the WCAG requirements. 
  • Expert review. Hire an expert who will examine your software and give you hints on what to improve.
  • Involvement of people with disabilities. Invite such individuals to provide valuable information regarding the convenience of using the app. 

Conclusion: Why Accessibility Knowledge Is Important for Development Teams

Creating accessible applications is crucial given the importance of accessibility. Accessible apps enable those with impaired vision, hearing, motor skills, and other disabilities to utilize technology and access information with greater ease and independence. Moreover, embedding accessibility into apps helps fulfill ethical obligations and legal requirements to not discriminate against people with disabilities. It also makes good business sense, as accessible apps broaden the potential user base and allow companies to serve more customers.

It is often more cost-effective to implement accessibility from the start. To ensure your application meets accessibility standards, it is wise to partner with experienced professionals. Sigma Software, as an established IT services company, can provide end-to-end support — from designing accessible interfaces to comprehensive testing and development.