IBM helps mobile apps meet accessibility guidelines

The Mobile Accessibility Checker flags potential accessibility issues with mobile apps

When creating new mobile applications, developers all too often forget taking the few additional steps to make their programs usable for those with disabilities.

Now, IBM offers a free testing tool to ensure mobile applications are useable to the one billion people worldwide with disabilities, such as people with visual or auditory impairments. The checks are also good for ensuring the app can be used by the world's growing elderly population.

More than 60 percent of the world's population now uses mobile devices, IBM has estimated. Making a mobile app accessible for everyone not only ensures the largest possible user base, but also strengthens the overall design of the product.

The Mobile Accessibility Checker reviews programs written both for Android and Apple devices.

The tool checks, for instance, that the app can be navigated through using only voice commands, which would aid the blind. It can check that the color of the text is sufficiently different from the background. It can check to see if the font size, command buttons and spacing between elements are large enough for those with visual impairments.

The checker, developed by IBM Research, ensures that the mobile app complies with government regulations and accessibility standards overall. It can provide corrections to common problems, and gives the developer with an overview of the work that needs to be done.

To further aid accessibility development, IBM is collaborating with accessibility tool vendor SSB Bart Group, to build a platform for managing accessibility features on mobile platforms.

In addition to the resources offered by IBM, developers can use the documentation and standards offered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to make their apps available to the broadest possible user base.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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