ADA-Compliant Mobile Software


In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) set forth some of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in American history. Any public collateral in the United States must have features that grant equal access to people with physical disabilities. However, it can be difficult to understand how to meet those needs, especially in mobile software. Yet awareness on the subject is crucial, not only to ensure mobile apps serve everyone equally, but to protect the businesses that offer them. Here’s a brief overview of four main ADA accessibility tenets, plus some examples of how they look in mobile apps.

Perceivable Accessibility in Mobile Software

Perceivable mobile accessibility means that the mobile app must be visible by everyone, even those with limitations. This need is broken into three different categories: screen size, zoom, and contrast.

  1. Small Screen Size

Screen size is an important consideration for mobile app ADA compliance. Most mobile devices have smaller-than-average screens. While their resolution may be excellent, the size of the screen limits how much of the app people can see at once.  That’s why you should consider:

  • A dedicated mobile platform tailored for use on various devices.
  • A responsive design that allows hiding menus and other tabs, so narrow screens aren’t so limiting.
  • Providing a large enough default font size.
  • Working to minimize the need for users to zoom in and out.
  • Positioning form fields below their labels rather than next to them.
  1. Zoom/Magnification

These controls allow users to manage how close their view is to the content on the screen.  Web browsers usually have zoom built in, but mobile software is still catching up. Some methods to make these features more accessible are:

  • Creating your software with standard “pinch and zoom” functionality, so users can simply enlarge text and images through your responsive software and their device working together.
  • Allowing the option for users to magnify the entire screen through an “accessibility features” setting on the application or software.

Always keep in mind that text needs to be re-sizable up to 200% to be compliant with ADA standards.

  1. Contrast

Mobile devices are made to be used in a variety of environments, meaning your users may not always have ideal lighting. In order for your mobile software to be compliant, it needs to allow for different contrast ratios, as well as accessible controls on those ratios, so people can correct for this challenge. The minimum contrast requirement is 3:1 for large scale text and all the way up to 7:1 for enhanced contrast.

Operable Mobile Software Accessibility

ADA compliance for operable mobile accessibility requires evaluation of the physical gestures necessary to use the mobile software. Essentially, the physical use of your application should be as easy to carry out as possible. A single or double tap to activate most features makes things easiest for those with limited dexterity. If your software enables a user to access features by shaking the device or making noise, the same capability must be available through the touch screen.  The last important part of operable accessibility is placing buttons where they can be easily seen and pressed by users with limited mobility, dexterity, and/or vision.

Understandable Mobile Software Accessibility

Keeping your mobile software “understandable” under the ADA means maintaining consistency in headers, logos, and responsiveness. When your mobile software changes orientations—as most mobile devices allow—the important features of the page need to stay in the same place. If the logo stays at the top when the device is in portrait mode, it should remain there when the device is switched to landscape.

Positioning all important information before the page scroll also helps keep software understandable. This helps all users make the most of your software immediately regardless of if they have the capability to scroll.

Robust Mobile Software Accessibility

Robust accessibility refers to providing easy methods for physical data entry on the device. For example, if your software is like Turbo Tax and makes a once-analog process go digital, it needs to include a speech to text option for those who can’t see, use an onscreen keyboard, or incorporate touch capability.

These are the basics, but a full evaluation of your software will reveal where your software might be leaving some users out.  Mobile accessibility testing is only one of iLAB’s many services and specialties. Contact us today to see how we can help ensure your app’s ADA compliance.