Prevalence of Mobile
The internet has been taken over by mobile. On any given day, user time on mobile devices surpasses user time on desktop computers. This is a recent development; until 2014, desktop use was still greater than mobile use. Conveniently, mobile technology offers innovative native accessibility features such as screen readers, haptic keyboards, text-to-speech/speech recognition and zoom features. These offer great flexibility for people with disabilities; however, unique accessibility challenges are still present.
New Guidelines Presented
Earlier this month, I presented with Jennifer Chadwick and Peter McNally at the ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium in Washington, DC. Our goal was to share a new accessibility testing methodology with colleagues and to submit a plea for wider input.
Define site types and variations – Mobile Sites only
Our proposed guidelines document details the various ways to test mobile accessibility. The methodology expects full functionality on all types of sites, such as desktop websites, responsive websites and m.dot sites. It also examines how to catch variations like those that appear based on device, operating system, browser and/or screen size.
Define application functionality – Native Apps only
Native Apps are often more directed than mobile sites – they tend to offer one type of functionality. For example, a banking site will have information about opening a new account, finding bank locations and contact details. An online banking native app tends to have only information about online banking. Therefore it is important that the functionality of a native app is fully defined.
The tests are broken into five sections:
- Critical mobile specific issues: this category is all about traps and remains the most common and most problematic issue by far.
- Mobile issues: this category is related to orientation, motion actuation, keyboard functionality and alternative input, for example.
- Mobile assistive technology and feature support: this category ensures that content and functionality can be used by assistive technologies and appropriately change when certain mobile features, such as zoom or Invert Colors, have been turned on.
- Mobile and desktop relationship issues (mobile site): this category verifies consistency between accessing a site via mobile device and desktop.
Background – How it All Started
Forming a Subcommittee
In 2017, at the annual ICT Testing Symposium, I sat in on a discussion about the suffusion of mobile technology and the various approaches to addressing mobile accessibility issues. These included WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, BBC Mobile, the AccessibilityOz testing methodology and The Paciello Group Mobile Testing Guide. From there we decided to form a subcommittee to create a common mobile accessibility testing methodology. The formation of the subcommittee included Sunish Gupta and myself as Co-Chairs, as well as Jonathan Avila, Jennifer Chadwick, Matt Feldman, Peter McNally, Alyson Muff, Andrew Nielson, Laura Renfro, Janet Sedgley, and was overseen by Chris Law.
What about WCAG 2.1?
When we formed the subcommittee, we anticipated the release of WCAG 2.1, but we decided to proceed with our task rather than waiting for its release. Mobile accessibility is too important to put off. When WCAG 2.1 came out, we found that many accessibility issues related to touch technology were present (a much-needed expansion from WCAG 2.0.). Still, several other important areas such as traps are left wanting in the new Guidelines. Our methodology builds on the assumption that testing against WCAG 2.1 has already been performed.
Our subcommittees have separated into two sections: one focused on mobile sites and one on native apps. Our documents are very much works-in-progress, and we hope to use the feedback we gathered during our ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium session, as well as feedback from beyond the Symposium. Please download the guidelines document and comment on this post with your feedback. I would be delighted to discuss the project further and gather your insight. Please be in touch and help contribute to this important work.
Interested in joining one or both of these subcommittees, or know someone who would be a valuable addition? Fill out our brief survey.