IBM AbilityLab Mobile Accessibility Checker: a tool to automate accessibility checks for a mobile application interface

    Recently, more and more often various developers pay attention to the topic of digital accessibility, trying to take into account the needs of the largest number of users in their products. Nevertheless, the presence of a full-fledged QA engineer accessibility in the team is still an exception rather than a general trend, so they often try to transfer control over the availability of interfaces to automated testing systems. And although machine testing still does not allow controlling many aspects of accessibility, it is still quite capable of helping to eliminate certain problems right at the stage of initial development, greatly reducing the cost of the whole process. By and large, the presence of such tests is also useful if there is a separate QA specialist in the project, so it is not right to completely contrast them.

    Against this background, the good news was the emergence of another tool for automated testing of the availability of mobile application interfaces for iOS and Android platforms, developed by the research department of IBM Corporation. This tool is called Mobile Accessibility Checker and allows you to automatically find and fix basic problems, which helps to make the application interface more accessible and convenient for the mass of users who are elderly or disabled. The number of such people in the modern world exceeds one billion, so in view of the increasing penetration of digital technologies, the number of such users of mobile applications is constantly growing.

    The IBM AbilityLab Mobile Accessibility Checker helps developers and designers automate validation, document, and report compliance with native and hybrid application interface accessibility standards for iOS and Android platforms. As a result, developers get information about the problems found and how to solve them right in the process of designing the interface.

    Automated testing covers such problems as unsigned graphic elements, sub-optimal size of controls and text, insufficient color contrast of the interface and limitations of keyboard navigation, that is, aspects that are critical for users with visual impairments and motor skills. As a result, the developer receives:

    • Compliance with technical standards for accessibility and, as a consequence, government regulations declaring mandatory compliance with accessibility standards (for example, American Section 508).
    • Save time and development costs through automation.
    • Lowering the competency threshold of entry, since the Mobile Accessibility Checker allows developers to make interfaces that are not very deeply familiar with various aspects of accessibility (at least to a certain level).

    IBM AbilityLab Mobile Accessibility Checker is available both in the form of a service and in the form of a software component with the Java SDK, which allows you to embed it in existing development systems, but, unfortunately, it is not open. All interested can get more detailed information in the fact-finding documentation (PDF file, 185 kB).

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