8 myths about app accessibility

We debunk some of the most common myths about building accessible apps and websites to help product leaders be successful.

5 min. read - April 2, 2024

By Ben Ogilvie

By Ben Ogilvie

8 digital accessibility myths blog hero
8 digital accessibility myths blog hero
8 digital accessibility myths blog hero

[Editor’s note: AKQA Group director of quality assurance Rick Fulgencio, CPACC, contributed to this article.]

There’s a lot that people get wrong when it comes to app accessibility. And because of my role as head of accessible products at ArcTouch and my personal connection to accessibility, I want to help people get things right. In this post, I debunk eight of the most common myths about building accessible apps.

Our goal is to help product leaders and user experience champions get past some of the misconceptions that creating accessible and inclusive experiences is too difficult or expensive. Because, as our co-CEO Adam Fingerman has previously said, embracing an accessibility-first app development mindset makes great business sense in almost every case.

So let’s bust some of those accessible app development myths.

Myth 1: Disabled users represent a small minority

Reality: There’s a tendency to think of people with disabilities as a small segment of the population, considering only those who are blind, deaf, or who have severe mobility challenges. Disability is a spectrum that affects many people. In fact, estimates show that nearly 25% of people in the U.S. have some form of disability, including age-related disabilities like low vision or those with severe mobility issues. Globally, there are 1.3 billion people with disabilities, representing the largest under-served minority group in the world. That’s nearly the entire population of China. Not so small after all.

Myth 2: People who benefit from an accessible app experience represent a small percentage of your target market

Reality: This may be wrong for multiple reasons.

First, the person buying or downloading your app may be different from the person using it. Parents and caregivers may purchase or download an app on behalf of loved ones with physical, mental, and age-related disabilities.

Second, many disabilities, like color blindness or mild dyslexia, aren’t diagnosed and certainly wouldn’t show up in any customer demographic study. So, it’s likely that many users in your target market would benefit from a more accessible app.

Third, consider the curb-cut effect, named for the ramps cut into sidewalks, initially designed to help people with wheelchair access but also benefited people on bicycles and pushing strollers and delivery people with dollies. Many accessible products across industries appeal to typical users, too. The number of people who benefit from accessibility is far greater than the population of people with significant disabilities.

Finally, keep in mind that your app’s users today may have disabilities in the future — and accessibility ensures you can retain your most valuable customers as their needs change.

Myth 3: Investing in accessible apps does not have a good ROI

Reality: It does require a bit more time and expense to design and develop accessible apps. But, the return on investment typically outweighs the costs. In fact, Forrester found that every dollar invested in accessibility and user improvements brought back $100 in return. One big reason: Consumers appreciate brands that prioritize inclusivity — which can increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and attract new ones through word of mouth.

There are also hidden costs to NOT building accessible products and features. An accessibility issue found after a product is launched is considerably more expensive to fix than if it were addressed during design. Finally, products that aren’t accessible may be subject to costly lawsuits or other enforcement actions via regulatory bodies and acts, including ADA, Section 508, AODA, ACA, EN 301 549, and the European Accessibility Act.

Myth 4: Accessible apps are ugly

Reality: Not at all! Our team has repeatedly shown you can design accessible apps that are also beautiful. We have created lovable and accessible UI designs for clients like McCormick, Common Sense Media, and Magellan Rx.

Myth 5: Accessibility is just a fad that will pass

Reality: The majority of our global population relies on their phones and the apps they use every single day. And that dependency is only going to increase, which makes inclusivity more important than ever. We shouldn’t deny anyone the benefits of a company’s app or website — including those with physical and mental disabilities.

Myth 6: Accessible app design and development is covered by WCAG

Reality: WCAG is an important and widely referenced resource for digital builders. However, its focus is on website design and development. Because the technologies used for websites and apps are so different, WCAG only partially applies. If your company is building accessible apps, it’s best to consult with builders like ArcTouch, who deeply understand app development and accessibility.

Myth 7: My native app will be accessible because accessibility is built into mobile OSes

Reality: Both iOS and Android have assistive technologies built into the operating systems — but enabling those features doesn’t just happen by default. Developers must leverage the correct APIs to expose your app’s content to those technologies. And while the native features are great, they don’t ensure compliance with all accessibility design and development standards.

Myth 8: It’s impossible to find builders that understand app accessibility

Reality: Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Finding trusted and innovative designers and developers to build apps of any kind can be challenging, but there are good ones — and some of those builders are on the leading edge of understanding digital accessibility. Our app accessibility experts — who crafted this helpful app accessibility checklist — can put your company on the path to delivering useful, delightful, and inclusive products.

About ArcTouch

ArcTouch has been creating lovable apps for companies of all sizes since the dawn of the App Store more than 15 years ago. Contact us to learn more about our accessible product design and development services.

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