Auditing accessibility of mobile apps – 2024 update

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Any help to make native mobile application accessibility clearer is welcome. We really need to know more to make apps more accessible.

Accessibility never rests as the need for it only grows, especially with perpetual situations of emerging inaccessible technologies that always outgrow accessible. We can usually pinpoint the reasons to nonexistent awareness and sometimes even willing ignorance.

A lot has been done about the awareness parts, and legislation like Web Accessibility Directive, and even more – European Accessibility Act, for sure helps a lot (not limited to EU). But nevertheless, WCAG conformance is difficult to achieve – even for organizations that are far on their accessibility maturity journey. This has a lot to do with methodology as it’s very simple to fail a WCAG success criterion and it’s not so easy to conform to a WCAG success criterion – especially when our website (or other digital product) has more than hundred pages or views (considering that we need to manually check all of them to be certain about their conformance).

But if we compare testing for conformance of websites against other digital technologies (like for example mobile applications, digital documents, electronic books and so on) – it is sometimes very unclear how to apply WCAG to them. It’s simpler for web – we have quite promising automatic testing tools, we can access the source code, there are documented failures that we can study, we have the help of understanding documentation that can help us to understand the criteria targeting websites explicitly, but we don’t have a lot of the same for native mobile applications and other non-web products. So it makes it a lot more difficult.

Applying WCAG 2 to Non-Web Technologies (like mobile apps) = WCAG2ICT

As mentioned in the beginning – accessibility does not sleep and I was happy when I saw the Guidance on Applying WCAG 2 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (WCAG2ICT, opens in new window) being updated on 27th of June 2024.

WCAG2ICT is only informative guidance and not in any way normative to actually reach compliance. We need to understand the WCAG before we can understand WCAG2ICT, and mobile applications are barely mentioned in WCAG2ICT. I hope we will soon get an update of Mobile Accessibility: How WCAG 2.0 and Other W3C/WAI Guidelines Apply to Mobile (opens in new window), as we already have WCAG 2.2 we need to consider and WCAG 2.0 is absolutely not enough.

I like to believe that WCAG is technology agnostic, or even platform agnostic. But it seems that some standards (like for example EN 301 549) don’t include all WCAG success criteria and that can be a bit confusing.

EN 301 549 (linking to Canadian HTML version, opens in new window) does not require the following (WCAG 2.1 A and AA at the moment):

  • 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks,
  • 2.4.2 Page Titled,
  • 2.4.5 Multiple Ways,
  • 3.1.2 Language of Parts,
  • 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation,
  • 3.2.4 Consistent Identification

At least parts of them are technically possible to achieve with different methods, but I understand that differences between platforms and versions of platforms are a huge burden for designers and developers, so I understand why those are exempt.

Please check also Steve Faulkner’s post WCAG (Level A) BANG for your APP A11Y BUCK (opens in new window) for further explanations (and sometimes also open questions).

I hope we will get more clear methodology before European Accessibility Act comes in place. Current situation is not making accessibility of mobile applications a favor.

Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as digital agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work. Check out my Accessibility Services if you want me to help your with digital accessibility.

Also head of the expert council at Institute for Digital Accessibility A11Y.si (in Slovenian).

Living and working in Norway (🇳🇴), originally from Slovenia (🇸🇮), loves exploring the globe (🌐).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

More about me and how to contact me:

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