Section 508 and Mobile Accessibility

Mobile Accessibility: Why should businesses care?

Category: ADA Compliance, Mobile

With the advent of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, their compact size and ease of use has led to an increased demand for these devices. It has become inevitable for companies to develop mobile applications (mobile apps) corresponding to their core websites. Popular rideshare companies like  Uber, Lyft, …..offer their core products as mobile apps only.

The challenge… How to make these mobile apps accessible to individuals with disabilities?

Prior to the mobile apps, government agencies and commercial entities relied on software and web standards published by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). According to W3C – the organization that maintains WCAG 2.0 standards, but there are no separate guidelines for mobile accessibility, as it is covered in W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) accessibility standards/guidelines.

In the past, there have been many lawsuits related to website not being “accessible friendly” causing monetary losses and putting a company’s reputation at risk. Now this risk is extended to mobile applications as well – thereby causing companies to be more vigilant on adherence to these standards.

Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) have been incorporating accessibility features on their operating systems and devices to assist people with disabilities to use these features when using mobile applications. For example iOS provides Voiceover and Android provides TalkBack as screen readers. However these screen readers will read how the application has been coded. For example if the objects on the screen do not convey meaningful information to the end user through Voiceover or Talkback, then the accessibility problem has not been solved.

The big question is whether the creators of these mobile applications have knowledge of Section 508 standards and if they are performing assessment of their applications for accessibility compliance. While Section 508 compliance is not fully enforced in the commercial space, companies must understand the risks associated with usage of these applications by individuals with disabilities. They need to ensure that with reasonable accommodation all users of the mobile application must have a good user experience and not cause unexpected behavior due to accessible functionality.

Some best practices outlined below to ensure that mobile applications confirm to Section 508 standards:

         Plan a Section 508 charter that will be followed by the developers while creating the mobile app.

         Train your business analysts, developers and testers on Section 508 standards.

         Provide an accessibility statement to end users on the mobile app.

         Perform Section 508 assessment and remediate the pre-remediation findings to the extent possible.

         If possible, create an accessible version of the application.

As the demand for smartphones, tablets, voice-enabled devices is increasing, companies need to ensure that Section 508 standards are part of the development practices. At Newlineinfo Corp, we help you adhere and incorporate the 508 standards as part of the systems development lifecycle to minimize risk related to accessibility. This helps your business survive in the larger business ecosystem and continue to grow.

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