Make it Accessible
Create applications that are truly for everyone
App development is a continuously evolving field, and ensuring accessibility for all users is a crucial aspect of it. It's a testament to a developer's unwavering dedication to providing a digital experience in which every user, regardless of their cognitive or physical abilities, can participate, engage, and enjoy.
Apple has consistently prioritized accessibility as an integral part of its ecosystem, having as a core value creating products that can be used by everyone. The harmonious blend of innovative hardware and meticulous design ensures that Apple's products and platforms are not just for the many but for everyone.
As developers for the Apple ecosystem, adopting accessibility is more than following guidelines, it's about creating a world where every interaction is inspiring, intuitive and inclusive.
The Accessibility Domains
Accessibility is not a single and uniform concept but rather a spectrum that refers to a wide variety of unique user needs and experiences. Each dimension has its value, reflecting the different challenges and barriers that individuals may encounter in their interaction with digital products.
On their portal about accessibility, Apple categorizes the accessible features provided within their products into five domains. We can describe them as:
- Visual Accessibility
Refers to individuals with blindness, low vision or color blindness. It ensures that user interfaces are perceivable through features such as screen readers, high-contrast modes, and adaptable font sizes.
- Auditory Accessibility
Refers to the deaf or hard-of-hearing community. Content should remain accessible through tools such as closed captioning, visual cues, and transcription services.
- Speech Accessibility
Refers to users with speech impediments or disorders, focusing on technologies that can interpret various speech patterns and alternative communication methods.
- Motor or Physical Accessibility
Refers to users with diverse motor abilities, ensuring that applications and websites can be navigated without relying on precise gestures or actions. Essential features such as voice commands, adaptive hardware, and extended touch targets are often integrated.
- Cognitive Accessibility
Refers to individuals who face challenges with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and other cognitive impairments. It emphasizes intuitive design, consistent layouts, and avoiding overstimulating animations or content.
By understanding and respecting each of these accessibility dimensions, developers and designers can create products that resonate deeply with a broader range of users. This ensures that the digital world is not just expansive but empathetic. Embracing the full spectrum of accessibility paints a picture of a world where technology truly serves everyone, in every unique way they experience it.
Accessibility is not only an ethical obligation, but also a crucial aspect of the global economy that developers and businesses should take into account.
- According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide, which is roughly 16% of the global population, have some form of disability. (World Health Organization, 2023)
- In America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that 1 in 4 adults live with a disability. (CDC, 2023)
- In Europe, the estimate by the European Disability Forum reveals that around 100 million people with disabilities reside in the European Union, accounting for about 20% of the total European population. (European Disability Forum)
By embracing accessibility, you can align with a global and inclusive vision, tap into untapped markets, and establish your brand's image as genuinely universal.
It is becoming increasingly clear that accessibility has become more important than ever. It's not just a matter of knowing why it matters, but also how to make sure digital content and apps are inclusive for everyone.
Fortunately, Apple has made this process easier than ever before especially with the introduction of SwiftUI. By incorporating built-in features and applying design principles and approaches oriented to make app development simpler and faster, developers and designers can seamlessly create digital experiences that are both elegant and inclusive.
We will guide you through the steps to harness both UIKit and SwiftUI's capabilities and ensure that no one is left behind in the digital landscape.
What is accessibility in apps?
To navigate the complexity of Accessibility and accessibility in the Apple ecosystem, it is crucial to have a robust foundational understanding of its core and fundamental principles.
This section aims to provide solid groundwork around app development with a concentrated focus on accessibility, laying down the framework for inclusive technological advancements.
Your first step is understanding how SwiftUI and UIKit create an accessible representation of your app to make it usable by assistive technologies.
When it comes to making an application visually accessible, there are several elements to take into consideration. One of the most important ones is color choices, which can significantly impact the user experience.
It is crucial to ensure that there is sufficient contrast between the text and the background, particularly for users with vision or color vision impairments. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) specify minimum contrast ratio values to ensure that the content is accessible to all users.
The display accommodations suite offers solutions addressing the needs of those with color vision deficiencies. You can and should ensure that your application is usable under those settings.
Another crucial element of visual accessibility is typography, which includes choosing legible fonts and adjustable text sizes for those with visual impairments. It's also helpful to highlight elements in multiple ways, making the digital experience seamless for everyone by keeping it simple, direct, and easy to follow.
Dynamic Type is a feature available on Apple devices that allows the typography to adapt to individual preferences. This feature allows the font size to adjust fluidly, responding to user settings whether a user requires larger fonts due to visual impairments or simply prefers smaller text for aesthetics.
Your application user interface must be ready to adapt to the user's Dynamic Type settings, also specifying if there are parts of your interface that should not scale when larger font sizes are required. For all these elements you can support the Large Content Viewer for all these elements
It underscores the belief that accessibility isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it's about flexibility and adaptability.
Apple offers a range of features and assistive technologies designed for users who have low vision or visual impairments, these features include display and text settings, screen and cursor magnification, and a screen reader called VoiceOver.
VoiceOver is more than just a screen reader, it's a comprehensive tool that describes all the elements of the app interface, not only the text that is written in them. This tool bridges the gap between dynamic digital content and users, ensuring that the iOS ecosystem is as accessible for someone with visual impairments as it is for anyone else. It embodies Apple's philosophy of inclusivity and is an example of what's possible when technology is crafted with empathy at its core.
There are several ways a developer can ensure their application user interface is prepared to deliver the best experience possible for the people who are navigating their apps with VoiceOver. When developing your application using SwiftUI most of the work will be done by the framework and you will have an application mostly ready to be used with VoiceOver.
When it comes to creating their custom interface elements it is important to ensure that all the elements VoiceOver needs to be able to read that element correctly are set.
A counterintuitive aspect of preparing your user interface for VoiceOver is to hide the elements that are not relevant to the tool. There are visual elements of the interface that might play an important role in its visual representation, but that do not deliver any value when the screen is being read by a screen reader or even makes the interface confusing for a visually impaired user.
Ensure your apps can be used by everyone
Making sure that an app is accessible is just as important as making sure it works correctly. An app can be great, but it's not truly great if not everyone can use it. Apple's developer tools include something called the Accessibility Inspector, which is helpful when it comes to making sure your app is accessible. It lets you check different parts of the app to see if they work well with assistive technologies. You can look at things like labels, VoiceOver, and color contrast. This helps you make sure that everyone can use your app, not just some people. Using the Accessibility Inspector doesn't just help you meet standards, it also makes the user experience better for everyone.
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