App Developers Take Notice: Square Is Leading the Way To Include Blind People in the Mobile App Evolution

A press release was recently distributed announcing a collaboration between Square, Inc., and the National Federation of the Blind’s Massachusetts affiliate to enhance the accessibility of Square’s apps for blind users.  The TRE Legal Practice is pleased to have worked with Square and NFBMA to facilitate this collaboration by way of the following Accessibility Initiative Agreement.
Under the agreement, NFBMA and Square will work together to make certain improvements to the accessibility of the Square apps on Apple iOS by September 30, 2013.  In addition, after December 31, 2013, Square will consider Apple iOS Accessibility Guidelines in the development of any future versions of the Square Apps or new mobile applications so that blind users of VoiceOver Screen Access Software may enjoy the same services Square offers to sighted users.  For Android users, Square and NFBMA will meet over the coming months to work to enhance the accessibility of Square’s apps on that platform.
App developers should follow Square’s leadership.  Developers should proactively adjust their design processes to ensure that their apps offered to the public are more accessible to all users, including those who are blind.
Incorporating access for blind and other disabled users into a design is not difficult when accessibility is considered early in the design process.  Apple has published thorough guidelines that explain how to build an accessible app and incorporate accessibility checks as a habit into the design process.  Likewise, Google has supported similar guidelines for the Android platform.  App developers might also consider the utility of the WCAG 2.0 technical standards as applied to apps or, if developing for any level of government, the Section 508 standards and the pending update to those standards.  For a further example of how to apply these technical standards to mobile app development, see the BBC’s   future media and mobile accessibility design guidelines.
The advent of digital information is a window of opportunity for blind and other disabled people.  If developers invest a small amount of time to think about accessible design, this opportunity will be realized and developers will enjoy the benefits of a larger and more appreciative market share.