Programmatic – Comparing Website and Mobile App Accessibility

Episode Notes

In this episode of the Programatic podcast, host Michael Doise explores the topic of accessibility in programming. He brings on expert Taylor Arndt to lend her insights and expertise to the conversation. Together, they delve into various aspects of accessibility in programming, covering both desktop applications and websites/mobile apps.  The discussion kicks off with Taylor sharing her background in digital accessibility and programming, providing valuable context for the conversation. Michael mentions that future episodes will dive into more advanced topics, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of the subject matter.  One key point of focus is how desktop applications are audited for accessibility compared to websites and mobile apps. They examine the application of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to desktop apps, particularly those developed with Electron. This discussion sheds light on the challenges and considerations involved in ensuring accessibility in different platforms.  The conversation then turns to specific challenges faced by developers when implementing accessibility features, such as dark mode, in their apps. They discuss the Blindshell Classic 2, an Android phone with its own app system that does not support dark mode for Android apps. This prompts an exploration of the need for exceptions in accessibility audits and the processes that companies have for granting them. Additionally, they touch on the fact that many accessibility professionals may not have a development background, highlighting the need for collaboration between developers and accessibility experts.  Moving on, they tackle the technicalities of incorporating images in websites and mobile apps with regards to accessibility. The concept of decorative images, their purpose, and how best to handle them for screen readers is explored. They emphasize the importance of considering keyboard users and discuss whether hiding images from screen readers using ARIA is acceptable. The differences between handling images on mobile apps and websites are also considered, with a focus on best practices and exceptions to accommodate specific app needs. Conveying information through alt text and accessibility labels is highlighted, particularly for images that are critical to app functionality and flow.  The speakers then explore the topic of profile images on social media timelines and discuss the accessibility and usability implications of different approaches. They suggest that using a person’s name as a description for the image may be more accessible than relying solely on alt text. They also compare the accessibility and usability of Twitter and Threads posts, noting that Threads can be technically accessible but pose usability challenges due to navigation complexities.  Heading into the next segment, they analyze the differences in headings between websites and mobile apps, presenting their reasoning for specific heading levels and mobile-specific considerations. Collaboration with developers is emphasized as crucial for creating accessible apps, and the misuse of headings is cautioned against.  The podcast then turns its attention to the usage of audio in mobile apps, addressing autoplay, interruptions, and the importance of uninterrupted audio sessions. The layout and distinction of images, buttons, and links in mobile apps are also examined, stressing the need for clear differentiation between buttons and links. Accessibility features such as underlined text for links are highlighted as essential components of an accessible design. Criticisms are voiced towards companies that fail to properly differentiate between buttons and navigable items in their mobile apps, and the importance of mobile-specific expertise in app accessibility is reinforced.  The conversation wraps up with a discussion on the importance of code-level recommendations from developers who understand mobile platforms. Buttons, list items, headings, and images are emphasized as crucial elements to consider when comparing mobile and web accessibility. The necessity of captions and transcripts for audio content, as well as proper linking of web pages, is highlighted. Color contrast and adherence to WCAG standards are underlined as vital aspects to bear in mind. With a final message of programming being a creative and artistic career, the speakers emphasize the long-term benefits that good accessibility practices can bring to programmers. Listeners are encouraged to provide feedback and questions, with contact information provided for Taylor and Michael. The episode concludes, leaving listeners with valuable insights into the importance of accessibility in programming and how to approach it effectively.In this episode, we explore accessibility in programming with expert Taylor Arndt. We discuss auditing accessibility in desktop applications versus websites/mobile apps. We also cover challenges faced by developers in implementing accessibility features and handling images. Other topics include profile images on social media, heading structures, audio in mobile apps, and code-level recommendations. We emphasize collaboration between developers and accessibility experts and the importance of adhering to WCAG standards. Contact information for Taylor and Michael is provided for feedback and questions.

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