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Study on app accessibility: adesso mobile solutions warns of stumbling blocks

adesso mobile solutions, the mobile business experts of the IT service provider adesso, has released a study on app accessibility. Prepared in cooperation with the market research institute eye square, the paper entitled “Mobil mit Barrieren – Apps auf dem Prüfstand” (Mobile with barriers – putting apps to the test) takes a closer look at what companies need to keep in mind when developing apps.

In Germany, the Act on Equal Opportunities of Persons with Disabilities (Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz, BGG) and the Barrier-free Information Technology Regulation (Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung, BITV) provide a clear legal basis for enabling people with disabilities such as blindness and vision loss to use IT solutions. But what is the situation like in the real world? What are the greatest obstacles providers face when developing accessible apps?

To find out, adesso mobile solutions partnered with eye square, a market research institute specialising in user experience (UX), to carry out tests using people with blindness and vision loss. On conventional smartphones, the test subjects employed a screen reader – a software program that renders an app’s content and buttons into speech using a virtual assistant – to operate the apps. Through their phones’ speech recognition functions, the test subjects were also able to operate the apps using speech input.

Study: Mobil mit Barrieren (Copyright: iStock – AzmanJaka))

The findings of the study illustrate the shortcomings of present-day apps and make it clear what needs to be taken into account when developing future applications. The UX and UI specialists at adesso have developed a checklist that interested companies can use to help them make better apps.

The most common flaws:

  • Faulty speech output: All buttons and elements of the app, including images and illustrations, should be compatible with speech output.
  • Speech output interrupted: Advertising and pop-ups may interrupt speech output.
  • Speech input not recognised: The quality of the speech recognition software used is inadequate.
  • Captchas: People with blindness and vision loss are unable to solve distorted number and letter combinations, since speech output does not work on them.
  • Magnification leads to confusion: Extreme magnification may displace page elements and cause disorientation.
  • Updates: In some apps, functions may no longer work following an update or may be located in a different position, making it difficult or altogether impossible to use the app.

The most important criteria:

  • Focus on the target group: It can help to speak directly to target groups and make immediate adjustments during the development phase.
  • Ease of use: It should be possible to search all content through voice input.
  • Consideration of design guidelines: Clear compliance with known user experience guidelines prevents the most severe barriers.
  • Keep it simple: Apps should not be cluttered with content and functions. It is important to focus on core functions to ensure understanding and usability.

The study project was overseen by the UX and UI designer Theresa Jordan from adesso mobile solutions. Theresa has over a decade of expertise in the field of user experience and has advised numerous public institutions on the design of accessible websites and apps. “Accessibility ultimately benefits every user of digital services,” she says. “By breaking an arm, for example, any one of us could end up in a situation where we are unable to operate our smartphone or keyboard. When that happens, communication by speech output is the best choice.”

Theresa Jordan is UX / UI Designer at adesso mobile solutions (Copyright: private)

The “Mobil mit Barrieren – Apps auf dem Prüfstand” study is available free of charge on the adesso mobile solutions website.

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