Author: Rajan David
Reading time: 4 mins
According to WHO, 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of accessibility needs. So if you aren’t building accessibility into your software, you are excluding a significant proportion of users.
Enterprises the world over have begun to understand the need for accessibility in software development. That’s why mobile apps are being designed so they can be used by everyone not just those who are right-hand dominant, you’ve got apps that can be controlled by voice, touch screen functions, face recognition, and so on.
Accessibility requirements come in many forms, both visible and invisible, whether it has to do with visual impairment and impaired hearing abilities or even something like a slow internet connection. And having inaccessible software can be frustrating for any user.
There are several accessibility guidelines that developers can use. For example, you have the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Apple has its own Human Interface Guidelines, online libraries such as React have sections on best practices for accessibility, and so on. All of these help developers gain an understanding of accessibility challenges and solutions. In many countries, including the US and UK, accessibility is a legal requirement for all government and public sector websites and applications.
Let’s explore the major areas of software accessibility, why each of them is important, and how you can make your application more accessible in every way.
1. Accessibility for the Visually Challenged
Accessibility software for visually impaired individuals is important in order to include all groups. Before releasing your application, it is best tested in different sizes and formats, from handheld consoles to 4k televisions to mobiles and computer screens. This is apart from the usage of specifically designed visually impaired accessibility equipment. What if certain elements are difficult to access on smaller screens? Remember that there are 2.2 billion people living with vision impairment. There are several ways that you can use accessibility software for the visually impaired, to make software design accessible to those with visual impairment.
Color contrasts for example – using light grey text for inactive fields may be difficult to read. Another common area is text on a button, where if the contrast is not enough those with vision disability may find it difficult to read. You may have a lot of images on your website, but without alt text, they are useless to those with visual disabilities. It’s important to use visually impaired accessibility equipment, including speech software used for the visually impaired, to get access right. Alt text is easily done in the design stage.
2. Accessibility for those with Mobility Challenges
For users with tremors or dexterity issues, accessing a keyboard or a typing-intensive program can prove extremely challenging. WCAG guidelines in fact suggest that a user should not be required to hold down a key. Users for example should also be able to “tab” to each of element on a page in a logical flow.
Other ways to make the software more inclusive for those with mobility issues would be to incorporate scanning input, for example, one that is activated by movement of the head or just the breath. Speech input is another option for interacting with individuals with disabilities, where systems recognize individual speech patterns.
3. Accessibility for the Neurodivergent
Google predicts that by 2025, incorporating neuro-inclusive design will increase user adoption by 5x in the first two years of production.
That means software developers ought to be aware that certain sounds, pop-ups, and visual features may hinder the ability to use the product by a person who is neurodivergent. A way to make the product more accessible in this regard would be to design with simplicity and ensure an intuitive and predictable flow to the page/site/product/app. Google’s autocomplete is perhaps one of the best examples of engineering for accessibility. It enables those with neuro and physical challenges to work accurately and quickly.
4. Hearing Impaired accessibility
Can hearing impaired software be used in conjunction with hearing aids? Do you have text captioning on a screen or monitor to help those who are completely deaf? What about sign language to accompany video-intensive apps?
Subtitles, captions and descriptions of sounds like laughter are simple ways to improve hearing impaired accessibility for your hearing impaired software. And that, according to WHO, is about a billion people in the world.
So why you should seriously consider making your software accessible? First, it’s the right thing to do! Everyone, regardless of physical abilities, should have access to technology. By designing and developing accessible inclusive software, you’re breaking barriers. And equally importantly, by incorporating accessibility in your apps, you are including a large and underserved customer base, which has both direct and indirect business benefits.
Accessibility in software development should not be an afterthought – it is fundamental to creating equitable and inclusive digital experiences. CloudNow can help you with accessible software development as well as help you retrofit existing software to make it more accessible.