Mobile apps accessibility! Is it impossible?

Mobile apps accessibility is something always make me upset. I am a full time IOS user and often play with my Samsung tab with Android OS in it. I am also a screen reader user so I heavily depend on VoiceOver and TalkBack.

My Apple iPhone acts as a personal assistant to me. Beginning with the alarm to wake me up in the morning until the reminder to bed in the night the apps in the phone help me plan my day perfect. Few other apps help me in making the financial management, some help in reading the news, get live update of cricket score, some for travel etc. However most of these mobile apps frustrate me a lot due to their inaccessible user interface. Let me outline few common problems which I observe often.


Problems with mobile app accessibility

Missing labels for interactive elements.

The back, font resize and bookmark buttons in Times Of India IOS app reads as follows. BackChervlon Icon 0, FontSelecter icon 0 and Bookmark Icon 0. Who knows that they are back, font resizer and bookmark buttons.


Grouping and splitting User interface elements

In one of the famous mobile app that provides mobile wallet, online shopping and travel booking the UI elements are completely inaccessible with VoiceOver. I am talking about you Paytm. The flight booking screen is a perfect example of 100% inaccessible mobile screen. The labels From and To are read out in a single swipe and in the next swipe the two buttons are read at once. In no way the VoiceOver user can activate these buttons. Rest of the elements in the booking process are no better. It looks to me that Paytm don’t want their blind customers to make travel booking from the mobile app.

After demonetization in India the mobile apps such as paytm have healed the situation to certain extent. However inaccessible mobile user interface make the situation no better for persons with disabilities.

No role or state announced

In many apps the tabs are not announced as tabs and do not say which is currently selected. Users who can see can easily outline which tab is currently selected with the change in color but the same is not apparent for users who rely on VoiceOver or Talkback. The FoodPanda IOS app is a perfect example of this. Restaurants, Orders, Basket, Deals and more are the tabs a voiceover user can reach at the end of the FoodPanda IOS screen. These UI elements do neither say that they are tabs nor do they say which of them is currently selected. Of course the app contains a lot of unlabeled buttons setting examples to let people know how something should not be coded.


Why are these mobile apps not accessible?


Do you think the mobile app developing technology is not matured enough to create accessible user interface? Do you think the same OS providers who work hard to make robust screen readers like VoiceOver and TalkBack have not thought about accessibility in their respective development kits? Do you think there are no set standards that drive mobile app accessibility?

Apple IOS and Google Android are putting lot of effort in creating platforms that enable developers to develop accessible apps. They have also provided a lot of great documentation allowing the designers and developers to make best use of the technology. I will share the resources later in the article to learn this new skill. Talking about the standards, the W3C’s WCAG 2.0 standards are not technology specific. They can be applied to any digital technology including mobile app accessibility.


Primarily the businesses especially in India are either not aware of accessibility or they do not think about the experiences of persons with disabilities and age old people. No much focus is on accessibility both in academics or in the job for designers and developers to enhance the skill of mobile app accessibility. In a way they are losing a large market share. Taking my example, I use Tapzo instead of similar apps such as Paytm or FoodPanda, Uber instead of Ola cabs, Tez instead of HDFC bank etc.

It is the responsibility of the designers and developers to do the right thing. Making the mobile app accessible is not an additional effort or not a favor to certain user groups. It is the right thing to do. Enhancing your skills to ensure that the app you develop is reaching large number of users will open up new ideas to innovate inclusive features and products.

The following resources should help you get started to make your next mobile app, feature or screen accessible. If you need more assistance reach out to us through the contact page.


Mobile app accessibility resources


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