Accessibility Testing for Mobile Devices
In order to capture a piece of the huge and rapidly growing mobile market, e-commerce and other online companies need to build their digital assets with both responsive web design and mobile accessibility in mind. Why is this important?
First, web surfing is no longer dependent upon desktop computers. Today, with nearly 4 billion smartphones on the planet, mobile devices are more popular than ever for internet users. Nearly 55% of internet traffic and 73% of retail e-commerce in the United States originates from mobile devices. By the end of 2021, mobile e-commerce (or m-commerce) sales are anticipated to surpass $3.5 trillion for the year.
At the same time, 1.85 billion people worldwide (15% of the population) live with some form of disability, who collectively influence $13 trillion in annual discretionary spending. If these individuals—or their family members and friends—are unable to easily navigate and complete sales transactions on your website, they will go somewhere else instead.
This article communicates how various accessibility tools can help enhance performance and provide equal access to your website for mobile customers with and without disabilities.
Why does mobile accessibility matter?
Mobile accessibility is important because using the internet as it is intended can be extremely difficult or even impossible for many people with a wide range of disabilities—including mobility, cognitive, auditory, speech, visual, and age-related disorders. On mobile devices or smartphones, which have much smaller screens and more limited functionality than desktop computers, it can be even more challenging to read text, navigate menus, and access other features.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed as a set of international standards to make websites and all digital assets accessible for internet users of all abilities. Many countries have adopted these guidelines as legal regulations, such as the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), intended to address discrimination in places of public accommodation (meaning both physical and online locations), for 61 million people who live with disabilities, as well as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which governs federal accessibility requirements, and the European Union’s EN 301 549.
Compliance with these requirements not only provides equal access to websites and digital assets by most online users, but can also protect businesses and other organizations from lawsuits, which are tripling each year. That’s why you need to be sure that all of your digital assets, including websites, multimedia, images, and apps, have full mobile accessibility on all platforms.
How to perform mobile accessibility testing
Mobile accessibility testing can be performed manually, automatically, or a combination of both, which works best to identify and remediate ADA/WCAG compliance violations. It should be done in conjunction with the normal non-mobile testing process, paying special attention to any differences that a mobile user would experience.
The WCAG 2.1+ accessibility checklist for success criteria, to identify and remove accessibility barriers for people with physical/sensory/cognitive challenges, fall into four categories, organized into the acronym POUR:
- Perceivable – “Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive” using the senses they depend upon.
- Operable – “User interface components and navigation must be operable” and “available from a keyboard,” as many people with disabilities cannot use a mouse or trackpad.
- Understandable – “Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable…readable…predictable” and correctable by the user.
- Robust – “Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.”
The award-winning Allyable360™ platform provides advanced, yet easy-to-install, accessibility tools that allow developers, marketers, consultants, small businesses, large enterprises, and anyone else with a website to fix existing issues and build with accessibility in mind from the ground up. Using our fast, affordable, low-code modular suite of tools, your development team can automatically scan online content for compliance errors. Some violations during the accessibility test can be automatically corrected, while others are flagged for manual remediation.
Allyable provides the only 360° digital accessibility solution that addresses all your WCAG/ADA/Section 508 compliance needs, all in one place, from testing to remediation.
What is a screen reader and how is it used?
To access the internet, people with visual or learning disabilities often rely on assistive technologies such as braille displays and/or screen readers. As is evident from its name, a screen reader is text-to-speech software that searches for and reads any content displayed on a computer screen or mobile device—such as websites, documents, spreadsheets, file menus, icon labels, and more—out loud, through speech synthesis.
A screen reader is usually operated by the computer keyboard, using the Tab key to advance from one item to the next. It begins reading at the top of each page, including the navigation menu, headers, and alternate text for images, and continues to the end, with pauses for periods, commas, and other punctuation. The user can adjust speech speed and volume and repeat or search for specific words or phrases.
That is why it is important for web pages and documents to be designed so screen reader users can easily navigate all features and content with a keyboard. In fact, using a screen reader with keyboard navigation is a great way to verify your accessibility testing to confirm the functionality and flow of web pages.
For mobile accessibility specifically, websites and apps should be designed and tested for compatibility with devices using both Android (Accessibility Suite) and iOS (VoiceOver) integrated screen readers. Some specific WCAG guidelines include: ensuring keyboard navigation, providing text alternatives, programmatic determination of human language, and more.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 39 million people globally are blind and another 237 million have moderate to severe distance vision impairment. In the U.S., impaired vision or blindness affects 7.3 million people (2.3 percent of Americans), according to the National Federation for the Blind (NFB). Meanwhile, statistics show that 5–9 percent of the general population worldwide is affected by learning disabilities, including dyslexia, autism, and other conditions.
The use of screen readers gives many people with these disabilities access to and understanding of digital media that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise.
Mobile accessibility checklist
Mobile sites, apps, and other content are required to conform to the same WCAG 2.1+ POUR accessibility standards as described above and specified in detail in the published guidelines. Here are a few areas of concern that apply to mobile accessibility testing and performance for users with disabilities:
Sufficient color contrast between foreground text or graphics against the background is critical for those with low vision, low-contrast vision, or color blindness to distinguish content. WCAG criteria requires the minimum contrast ratio of normal text to be at least 4.5:1 and at least 3:1 for 18 points or larger (14+ bold) text.
For computer and mobile accessibility, test the layout and readability of content with screen magnification by Zooming the web browser to 200% on each page. Navigation should still be functional and text easily readable without the use of assistive technology or interference with other accessibility requirements. Content elements should be responsive and adjust to various screen resizing.
Because people with disabilities who use keyboard navigation can lose track of where they are on a page, developers should make it clear which item has the current keyboard focus. In addition, the chance of inadvertently triggering a functional user interface element (form submission, new window launch, etc.) when focused upon must be reduced by requiring an additional action.
Non-text content should be accessible through text alternatives to match the preferred sensory modality of the user (visual, auditory, or tactile). This includes alternative text for an image that a screen reader can speak and a closed captioning option for videos or multimedia content for deaf and hard-of-hearing users.
Responsive mobile accessibility design should ensure that screens display in the user’s selected orientation lock setting (portrait or landscape) while web browsing or during application use. This is especially important for those with mobility disabilities who mount their mobile device on a wheelchair and use eye tracking or assistive touch to navigate the internet.
While distinct success criteria for mobile accessibility has not been explicitly defined by WCAG, in most countries around the globe, the most current general guidelines apply to any Internet content that is accessed via a range of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, etc. At present, WCAG 2.0 remains the acceptable level of digital accessibility everywhere except Europe, which has adopted WCAG 2.1 standards for its member states. Over time, the World Wide Web Consortium may begin to address mobile accessibility standards more specifically. Allyable’s platform presently adheres to WCAG 2.1 and will continue to meet the strictest international requirements in the future.
Mobile accessibility refers to the way that content and digital assets are presented online, specifically via mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, etc., in order to be accessed by people with a wide range of disabilities who often encounter barriers, even while using assistive technology.
Mobile accessibility testing can be done manually or automatically, although a combination is best, in conjunction with non-mobile testing to ensure that all criteria are being addressed. The purpose of accessibility testing is to identify and remediate WCAG compliance violations. Allyable provides a range of products for mobile accessibility testing.
A mobile accessibility check involves scanning websites and apps on both Android and iOS mobile devices for compliance with international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards and success criteria within four general categories (POUR): Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust.
The WCAG guidelines with detailed success criteria are intended to provide equal access to websites and digital assets for Internet users with disabilities. Specifically designed criteria that address a wide range of needs for mobile accessibility include: enabling keyboard navigation, providing text alternatives for images, providing a minimum color contrast ratio, ensuring visibility and focus, selectable screen orientation, and more.
With mobile overtaking traditional wired computers for Internet access, it is vitally important to ensure that ALL visitors can use your website and digital assets equally, from any device, including the 1.85 billion people worldwide who live with some form of disability. That means applying WCAG accessibility standards and performing a mobile accessibility test to detect and fix compliance errors. Allyable can help you develop with accessibility in mind and remediate existing issues quickly, easily, and affordably.