Rating popular apps on their accessibility index
At the outset, I should say that I am not a person with impairment but an ally. I can imagine people rolling eyes already on that sentence and I get it; Allyship has been one of the biggest let downs of this century. I am not here to teach you disability or sell my solution nor am I interested in them. I am interested in understanding the oppression of people with impairment under capitalism and fixing it. The path to a truly inclusive world begins by acknowledging that there is a problem with how things are right now. Public spaces, digital spaces are inaccessible, and designers don’t always prioritize accessibility.
As important as ‘Digital’ is to society, this shift has been propelled rapidly by recent COVID lockdowns - widening the gap between abled and disabled people. So, it is imperative for digital innovators to focus on the ‘Accessibility’ aspect more than ever, especially for Mobile applications. Computer software and websites have been under scrutiny by WCAG guidelines for a long time and are more accessible than mobile OS or apps.
This blog is to make us realise where we stand on accessibility measures of mobile apps in order to undertake necessary improvements. I rate popular phone apps on their accessibility index. Five aspects are tested and a score out of 5 is given to each app.
- Text - Format, Size, Colour and Availability of alternatives such as speech, braille, symbols.
- Audio- Alternatives to audio content such as text transcripts or captions
- Graphics- Image/ GIF/ Video alternatives such as captions and descriptions
- UI Elements- Buttons, elements that trigger changes are placed predictably and are easily identifiable.
- User control- Follows user-changed settings on device, such as allows physical keyboard instead of gesture, provides enough time for screen reading.
Rating - 3/5
WhatsApp provides good text size settings and allows users to change wallpapers, which makes it easier for users to select the suitable visual. Text formats and sizes are also changed in sync with phone text size, format and contrast. However in recent research, the theme ‘Dark Mode’ has been discovered to be inaccessible for people with astigmatism.
Users can choose the format they want to communicate. However, audio files don’t have auto-generated captions or transcripts to make them accessible, the responsibility is on the sender.
The graphics that WhatsApp users send and receive can be image, GIF, videos, stories but the capitoning or description is user responsibility. WhatsApp doesn’t provide any automatic captions. Also stories run too quickly to catch up.
WhatsApp has an easy, predictable and identifiable UI. Fully supported by TalkBack and easy to perform any action.
WhatsApp allows control by TalkBack or Screen Reader also is compatible if input methods and gestures are changed.
- Facebook and Messenger
Rating - 3.5/5
Facebook supports phone’s preselected text formats and sizes and screen contrast.
Audio files are not supported to post, however, they can be used as a form of message in messenger and are inaccessible.
Video posts and image posts usually have auto generated closed captions and descriptions to make them helpful. Facebook has GIfs with captions too. However, Facebook stories don’t yet have auto-generated caption options. Although the company has announced plans to make this change sooner,Facebook Live doesn’t have auto-captioning yet.
Facebook and messenger have an easy, predictable and accessible UI.
It allows control by TalkBack or Screen Reader and is compatible if input methods and gestures are changed.
Rating - 3.5/5
Instagram supports phone’s preselected text formats and sizes and screen contrast. However, in recent research, the theme ‘Dark Mode’ has been discovered to be inaccessible for people with astigmatism.
Audio files are not supported to post, however, they can be used as a form of messages and are inaccessible. Therefore responsibility lies on the sender.
Video posts and image posts usually have auto generated closed captions and descriptions to make them helpful. IG stories generate captions too. They make mistakes but oftentimes the errors are ignorable. IG Live also doesn’t have auto-captioning yet.
IG has an easy, predictable and accessible UI.
It allows control by TalkBack or Screen Reader also is compatible if input methods and gestures are changed.
- YouTube App
Rating - 4/5
Text: Controlled by phone settings. So they can be changed into an accessible format if the phone allows it.
Audio: Audio format is not supported. Audios are usually uploaded as videos which can auto-generate subtitles.
Graphics: Graphics have auto-captions which are better than any other auto-captions. However Youtube shorts don’t have auto generated descriptions. Also the short video is timed.
UI elements: UI is intuitive, easy and accessible.
User control: Available for screen reader and other such apps.
Rating - 2/5
Size, format, contrast can be controlled by phone settings
Audio messaging is available however, it is not accessible to people with hearing loss.
Snapchat is an app with timed photos. But, the company has made no efforts to make them accessible. Images or videos dont have any auto captioning.
UI elements are not readable by TalkBack, the name is not read out for stories, UI is not easily predictable even for abled people.
Keyboard and gestures are supported.