IBM creates automated test to check accessibility features of mobile apps

Image via Apple Inc. website

Apple's track record on accessibility is already pretty good -- see Alex Jurgensen's weekly "Accessible Apple" column for proof of that -- but developers often overlook the needs of people with disabilities when creating mobile apps. Now IBM researchers have developed a tool for iOS and Android apps that can help those who are vision or hearing impaired. 

According to Frances West, IBM's chief accessibility officer, the Mobile Accessibility Checker provides automated testing "to help strengthen the accessibility features of mobile applications." Says West,

Our researchers saw an opportunity to address this by inventing technology that identifies and corrects usability issues early in the software development process,” West says. “This makes mobile apps easier to use for people with disabilities, helps developers save on costs and satisfy compliance requirements, and drives greater inclusivity in our communities through mobile technology.

The Mobile Accessibility Checker alerts developers to accessibility breaches like color contrasting, keyboard navigation, or focus, and recommends corrections to allow the developers to maintain adherence with industry standards and government regulations. At the present time, current tools only check for one breach element at a time and don't account for individuals with poor vision, so contrast isn't adjusted. Control spacing, button size and font size are also ignored in current tools.

IBM Accessibility Checker is available as a service or software component from IBM, and the company is also collaborating with SSB BART Group to develop a new accessibility management platform.