Designing Mobile Apps with Accessibility in Mind

May 6, 2024

UX designers should implement accessibility standards when designing mobile applications. While many designers concentrate just on the functional aspects of accessibility, it is equally important to consider the visual aspects because the first impression that a business makes has a remarkable impact on the audience’s perception of the business. By giving priority to accessibility, you can enhance the audience’s brand perception and thus increase the number of users who download an app. This also minimizes the chances that users will encounter accessibility issues.

An accessible mobile app ensures that all users have an equivalent experience while using the app. The primary goal of accessibility and inclusive design is to make your app work equivalently for different ranges of users. Whether you’re designing a Web app, a native app, or a hybrid app, accessibility can help you to create a highly performative product. In this article, I’ll discuss the importance of designing accessible mobile apps. Let’s dive in and explore this topic in depth.

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The Importance of Accessible Mobile Apps

Accessible mobile apps include both Web apps and native mobile apps that are accessible to everyone. During the development process for mobile apps, developers prioritize mobile accessibility, ensuring that the apps are accessible to people with various disabilities.

Smartphones have become omnipresent, but limiting app accessibility to the physically or mentally fit is not desirable. By neglecting accessibility, app developers unintentionally create barriers for important groups of disabled users.

Therefore, mobile developers need to view accessibility as an essential component of app development. By integrating accessibility features into their apps, developers can ensure inclusivity and enhance the user experience for individuals with diverse abilities. This approach not only broadens an app’s reach but also strengthens the sense of inclusiveness and equity across an organization’s digital space.

The top three areas of importance when developing an accessible mobile app are

  • legal importance
  • ethical importance
  • business goals

Legal Importance

Per Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a punishable offense results from any form of discrimination against anyone because of their disability, preventing them from enjoying goods, services, privileges, facilities, benefits, or the accommodations of any public place. For instance, Rideshare LLC and Domino’s Pizza were sued because of their hopefully unintentional accessibility policies.

Ethical Importance

When mobile apps lack accessibility, they exclude users with special abilities. Accessible mobile-app design enables everyone, with or without any disability, to utilize a software system effectively.

For example, including subtitles helps individuals with a hearing disability to access audio information, improving their overall user experience. Prioritizing accessibility does not just broaden your user base, it helps foster equality and ensures that everyone fully engages with your mobile app or Web application.

Business Goals

Preventing more than 1 billion users with disabilities from using an app represents a missed opportunity. Prioritizing accessibility improves the user experience and retains essential potential for business growth.

By ensuring that an app is accessible to all users, you can foster inclusivity and unlock new customer segments. Moreover, accessible apps garner loyalty from users, giving a business long-term success and burnishing the brand name. Leverage accessibility as a core value in your app-development journey to maximize impact and achieve meaningful business outcomes.

Key Principles of Accessible Design

The primary principles of accessibility apply to mobile-app development and ensure access to all users. Observing the following core principles results in an accessible mobile-app design:

  • operability—Operability is one of the key principles of accessible mobile-app design. The aim is to ensure that users with different abilities can navigate and operate the app easily. The operability principle relies on the idea that mobile apps should be efficient, easy to learn, and easy to use for all users—regardless of their cognitive or physical abilities. Applying this principle makes your business app fully operational.
  • perceivability—The perceivability principle focuses on ensuring that all users can perceive the app’s content, which should be in an understandable format. It emphasizes making data and user-interface components recognizable through different sensory modalities such as hearing, sight, and touch.
  • navigability—Clear, consistent navigation throughout a mobile app is essential to ensuring navigability when you’re applying accessible design principles in mobile-app development.
  • resilience—The content of resilient mobile apps should be accessible to all users. Mobile apps should continually strive for resilience, robustness, and strength in facing various challenges such as technical errors and external disruptions. By building apps on a strong foundation and implementing effective management of errors, you can reduce bugs, crashes, and information-loss incidents.
  • accessibility and compatibility—The design and development of accessible, compatible mobile apps requires fulfilling users’ differing needs and being compatible with different environments. Accessibility involves creating features that make an app usable even for individuals with particular disabilities, including those who require the availability of keyboard navigation, screen readers, and other adjustable settings.

The incompatibility principle ensures that a mobile app functions seamlessly across different operating systems, screen sizes, and devices.

Benefits of Accessibility for Businesses and Users

Now, let’s consider the specific benefits of accessibility for businesses and users.

Enhances the Brand Image and Customer Retention

A company that ensures the accessibility of its mobile apps demonstrates that is a law-abiding business and is aware of its users and their needs. When your app is inclusive and useful to every customer, this enhances your company’s image as a reputable brand.

Accessibility fosters a diverse culture that attracts associates for collaboration, establishing a firm reputation for your brand across the entire industry. With better inclusivity, people with disabilities can easily access high-quality customer services.

Fostering inclusivity increases access to high-quality customer services for people with disabilities. The provision of good customer services increases customers’ satisfaction and causes them to subscribe to your business, resulting in a high rate of user retention.

Improves SEO

Search-engine optimization (SEO) is the process digital-marketing executives follow to bring traffic to their business’s Web site or mobile app by improving their rank on search engines such as Google. Along with increasing the business’s reach, greater visibility increases its conversion rates. More accessible mobile apps also improve SEO by making an organization’s content easier to search.

Greater accessibility also makes mobile apps more user friendly. Plus, better accessibility makes a Web site or mobile app easier to navigate and decreases its bounce rate—the number of visitors who leave the site after viewing the first page.

Conveys Moral Responsibility

Disabled people must be an equal segment of any society. Therefore, making apps and Web sites more accessible demonstrates the responsibility of virtuous organizations across the world.

Building mobile accessible apps in a collaborative environment lets each employee contribute to this noble cause. Designers can design application elements to ensure that they are appropriate for users with different abilities, contributing to the development of an app that is accessible for all users.

Increases Profits

Mobile accessibility ensures that an app’s content is readily consumable via a variety of media such as videos, MP3s, alt text, and transcripts. This approach helps individuals experiencing age-related declines, language barriers, or injuries, making the availability of your information more inclusive and accessible to a diverse audience.

By prioritizing mobile accessibility, you not only increase your customer base but also improve user engagement and satisfaction. Providing an inclusive experience fosters loyalty and a positive brand perception, ultimately enhancing the likelihood of boosting sales and profits. Embrace mobile accessibility to drive meaningful connections with your audience and unlock new opportunities for growth and success.

Provides Amazing Independence

Mobile accessibility provides freedom to people who have certain disabilities. They can operate an app with just a few swipes, taps, or even voice commands and perform tasks such as the following:

  • purchasing everything from gifts to groceries to airline tickets
  • handling finances and banking
  • taking an online course
  • booking a taxi
  • viewing events

Case Studies: Apps That Provide Accessibility Features

Now, let’s look at some top examples of mobile apps that use accessibility features to make their apps usable by all types of users.

Google Assistant

Google Assistant is one of the most successful, well-known accessibility apps and has a variety of impressive functions. This Virtual Assistant provides a personalized user experience to all users and provides different means of helping them understand audio and textual content. Google made this app especially for users with disabilities. It offers various functionalities such as voice commands and voice control to help people carry out their tasks easily.

Be My Eyes

This app helps visually impaired people who are traveling from one location to another. A person who is unfamiliar with their surroundings can easily find their way using this app. The developer of this app has made it available on both iOS and Android, ultimately helping to grow the app’s user base and generating revenue for the business.

Assistive Touch

This app was designed specifically for people with particular physical disabilities, who could not otherwise perform the simple task of operating a smartphone. The app helps them operate their smartphone easily to access its features and functionalities.

Dragon Dictation

This app helps in communicating with hearing-impaired people, by providing the most promising solutions to their problems: lip-reading, sign language, and speech-to-text. This all-in-one speech-to-text app is accurate and simple to use. Essentially, it saves people time by preventing their having to type long sentences on a smartphone’s tiny keyboard.

Challenges of Accessible Mobile Apps and Their Solutions

Users encounter the following accessibility challenges when using mobile apps:

  • Custom widgets are sometimes challenging.
  • Libraries are huge and take up a lot of bandwidth.
  • Different-sized touch targets can be difficult to use.
  • Sometimes testing such apps can be more complex because of the need to consider factors such as the operating system (OS) version and browsers.
  • Keyboard interfaces are built using iOS, Windows, and iPad.
  • Sometimes the ability to control a device with speech might not be available because of poor connectivity or for any other reason.

Solutions for These Challenges

There are two general solutions that apply to all of these mobile-app accessibility challenges, as follows:

  1. Better tools can enable app developers to fulfill their clients’ custom development requirements.
  2. Mobile-app developers can increase their knowledge of accessibility capabilities.

Plus, there are specific solutions for the majority of these accessibility challenges. An expert developer might know all the best practices to overcome these challenges. So there is no need to worry about whether to follow accessibility best practices for mobile-app development.

Future Trends in Mobile-App Accessibility

Future trends in the domain of mobile-app development, including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G technology, Blockchain, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) games, and smart wearables, will make accessibility features in mobile apps more useful and worthy of implementation.

In 2024, most of us have heard about and envisioned participating in all of these trends. AI chatbots, AI tools for developing code, robots, 5G-enabled smartphones, AR/VR games, and smartwatches are some of the most popular examples of growing trends in mobile-app development. 


I hope this article has helped you to learn more about mobile-app accessibility and its future trends. Developing mobile apps with accessibility features will drive business growth. Users will adopt and learn to rely on mobile apps that do not discriminate between users with disabilities and those with no disability, growing your user base. 

Independent Mobile App Developer

Dallas, Texas, USA

Emily CooperEmily is a seasoned Senior Mobile App Developer and avid technical writer with over eight years of hands-on experience in backend, frontend, and cloud technologies. Emily’s passion for technology and knack for writing converge beautifully because she loves sharing her insights and experiences in mobile app development through various platforms such as Capturly, Medium, and Emprendices. Her articles not only reflect her depth of understanding but also her commitment to making complex topics accessible to all readers. Follow along with Emily as she takes you on a journey through her mobile app development experiences, offering valuable insights and practical advice. Emily’s engaging writing style and wealth of knowledge are sure to inform and inspire.  Read More

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