In this week’s episode of the iPhreaks Show the panel interviews Rob Whitaker, an expert in digital inclusion and accessibility. Rob starts by defining accessibility and explaining why it is important. He explains that 20% of the population has some form of disability, those customers need features to help the navigate applications. Everyone benefits from developers taking the time to think about their app works.
Rob dives into some of the main areas developers should look at when making their apps more accessible. The first and biggest one is making sure apps support dynamic text. Dynamic text makes the biggest difference for most people. All Apple apps support dynamic text. Testing dynamic text is easy, and important; just increase the size of the text and make sure everything still looks okay and reads well. Also, dynamic text isn’t just about making text bigger, some users may prefer smaller text for privacy.
With iOS 13 released, the panel asks about the new features for accessibility. Voiceover and Voice control are the big ones that will really unlock the way users can interact with applications. Voiceover will read the text and also describe pictures to the users. Voice control allows customers the ability to navigate applications much easier.
Rob explains that in the UK there is an annual survey about internet use. Many people don’t use the internet because of a disability and inaccessibility of applications, of those many are physically disabled. Voice control can unlock the internet for them, allowing them access to tools and education that most people take for granted.
Another new feature with iOS 13 is the grid view. Rob explains how this will be helpful navigating a map or something without explicit labels. He warns not to use it on pages where it could cover content.
Testing accessibility is easy and quick. Rob encourages everyone to add it to their routine testing practices. The panel considers automated accessibility testing. Rob shares his disappointing experience with the tools currently available. The panel hopes that new tools will be made now that accessibility is finally getting more attention in the development world.
Rob shares some of the common problems he sees in applications, such as making labels too long, marking things improperly whether accessible or not. For voiceover, he explains that it reads top left to the bottom right and when a display is designed out of order, the voiceover can be out of order and confusing. These problems can be easily avoided by swiping through and making sure that everything makes sense; he warns not to really on the visual display when doing this.
Rob continues to give advice on making applications more accessible. Make sure you are clear about control labels and the consequences of a control. This comment inspires a realization in Peter, who shares an example of having two confirm buttons on the same page for different things and how that could be confusing to the users using voiceover and voice control. He and Rob consider ways to solve that confusion. Rob explains what accessibility hint is and how it gives extra context for things that might work differently than normal.
Rob recently wrote an article on the European Accessibility Act. This is the first law of its kind that specifically mentions mobile. It also has categories and explains the requirements for each category. Rob explains how laws like these should incentives companies to make their applications accessible because if not they could be fined, while also alienating a portion of the population from buying your app.
The episode ends with a discussion of Swift UI and how it can be a tool when it comes to accessibility. Rob explains how as a declarative UI it can make accessibility easier and more accurate. The panel considers the benefits of cross-platform accessibility since accessibility in a Mac app can be difficult.
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