How to Ensure Your Mobile App Is ADA-Compliant

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Federal courts have dictated that all mobile applications in the U.S. need to be accessible to those with disabilities, thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Given these rulings and the 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S., you need to make sure your app complies with the law.

In this article, I will discuss some steps you should take to make your app ADA-compliant. That way, you can capture a wider market, avoid unnecessary legal battles, and provide the best possible experience to all your users. 

Provide a Transcript

Many apps today implement audio or video features. Think about how people with disabilities are going to view and hear these essential elements.

If a user has issues hearing, you should give them the option to use closed captioning. In addition, you want to provide a text transcript version for any audio elements in your app. You can hire someone to do this for reasonable rates.

When applying closed captioning, make sure it is accurately synchronized with what is happening on the screen. Failing to do so will confuse and frustrate your users, making them less likely to continue using your app. For instance, some apps require fast actions based on certain audio commands, and a lack of synchronization can cause big problems.

Recommended reading: Ashley Furniture Uses Assistive Web Tech to Reach New Demographics 

Design Coloration

You might think that color blindness is only a minor issue when accessing an app. However, many people have this condition, with the most common form being red-green color blindness.

Using those colors will affect how people view your app and might diminish its usability, especially if those colors are close to one another. Imagine if you were using an app where all of the colors were invisible or indistinguishable to you. It would be impossible to use.

Make sure that your app does not rely too much on red and green to communicate important information. Consider using different colors, or as an additional option, you can simply indicate which color is being presented.

Information Continuity

Make sure that your app information is consistent between landscape and portrait viewing modes. Users should be able to easily switch the view by rotating their device without losing any crucial information.

Many developers today think about ways to make their app responsive to different devices, and cross-platform apps are a big trend. In such an app, the elements on your page will be automatically rearranged to fit within the screen. 

A seamless transition is especially important for people with disabilities. 

However, not enough app developers take into account how the view can change for those with disabilities when rotating the device. For example, they tend to disregard whether getting to certain elements requires additional scrolling or other actions after switching modes. 

Keeping this in mind when designing your app will set you apart from the rest.

Avoid Light Flashes

Avoid using flashing lights in your apps, as some people can get seizures from them. The same goes for backgrounds that quickly alternate back and forth. 

If you have such features, make sure that you allow users to turn them off in order to stay ADA compliant and make it easier for them to use your app.

This can be a challenge for certain game applications. After all, quick movements and color changes are often a part of the game experience. 

Still, you should include options that make the gaming experience more accessible to those with disabilities. Not only does this make you more compliant, it opens up your app to more potential users.

Leave Plenty of Time for Material Processing

Give users plenty of time to read your app and process the material within. They should have the option to have it read to them slowly. 

While you might want to control the experience that users have in your app by guiding them along a timed path, it is not feasible for users who might take longer to do what you would consider basic tasks. And that is something that each app designer needs to keep in mind.

Avoid using pages that time out on users who need that extra time, making them lose their spot.

Error Messages

Error messages are crucial for helping users know if they are using your app incorrectly. They are particularly useful when it comes to inputting information or submitting forms. 

However, many people with disabilities have issues with on-screen prompts. This is especially true of those prompts that only appear on the screen once you take a certain action. 

These error messages need to be properly encoded so that screen readers and other assistive technologies can recognize them. As mentioned above, red and green can be problematic colors for some users, so it is recommended to avoid them. 

Additionally, make sure the error message is catered to the user’s system or device, such as iOS or Android, to reduce additional confusion and alienate potential customers.

Navigation Aids

A good user experience is crucial in app development, and it is particularly important when it comes to improving accessibility for users with disabilities. Easy, intuitive navigation is an essential part of the user experience.

Your navigation needs to be clear and obvious. The buttons or links that will help a user find the next page or action should be straightforward. 

To differentiate these, use contrasting colors. Additionally, you can make those features conspicuous through other characteristics, like shape and size. Bold or underlined words are also acceptable, as are buttons placed within boxes with solid outlines.

Features that improve accessibility improve the user experience for everyone.
Developers have started to become aware of their benefits and implement them in their work with more regularity. 

Heather Redding is a freelance content manager who writes about wearables, IoT, and other hot tech trends. Reach out to her on Twitter.