Blog - accessibility and assistive technology

Mobile APP-cessibility: a holistic approach

By Digital Access team on 21 January 2014 • Go comment! about 'Mobile APP-cessibility: a holistic approach'

It could be said that mobile devices have the most to gain from accessibility. Not only will accessible features support various disability groups, they can assist all users when environmental factors come into play. Why, then, are a number of user groups being forgotten when it comes to the accessibility of mobile apps?

The forgotten users

Digital Access at Vision Australia is often asked to review the accessibility of apps through its Mobile App Evaluation service. Our recent realisation was that many organisations are only focused on screen reader compatibility, such as VoiceOver on iPhone. While this approach addresses the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired, it doesn’t consider the needs of other disability groups such as people with mobility, cognitive, hearing or age-related impairment.

One reason for this might be that the needs of the blind community are more widely exposed. Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, is a highly influential advocate for accessibility. As someone who is blind, it’s often the case that his personal accessibility preferences, such as using screen reader technologies, are discussed as part of the public agenda. Positive as this may be, it’s important for organisations to remember the needs of all disability groups when developing a mobile app.

Universal access

During development of its new smartphone app, Emergency+, launched in December 2013, Australia’s Triple Zero Awareness Working Group sought advice from Digital Access to help achieve its accessibility goals. As a pan-disability consultancy that equally addresses the needs of all disability groups, we were able to provide tailored recommendations to enhance the app’s accessibility for a wide range of users.

Screen shot of Emergency+ mobile app info page with details of accessibility support service providers including Health Direct, National Relay Service and Vision Australia.A holistic approach such as this one doesn’t only benefit users with impairment; it can have universal access benefits. Mobile devices are designed to be used anywhere, anytime. As a result, environmental factors can adversely affect the user experience, for example: screen glare; noisy surroundings; tiny text size. Accessibility features such as those built into Apple devices can assist in these types of situations, for example: adjusting colour contrast can help eliminate screen glare; captions enable you to watch videos in noisy surrounds; zoom can make tiny text more readable. By optimising your mobile app to work with these in-built features, you’re on your way to achieving APP-cessibility for all.  

Digital Access at Vision Australia provides specially designed accessibility services to support a range of digital projects. Visit 
our services pages to find out more.

Emergency+ Smartphone App:

The Emergency+ app provides users with their GPS reference which they can report to an emergency call taker to pinpoint physical location. It also provides information about when to call Triple Zero, and who to call in various non-emergency situations. The app is free and currently available on iOS and Android devices through the Google Play store and the Apple App Store

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