This document, “Mobile Accessibility: How WCAG 2.0 and Other W3C/WAI Guidelines Apply to Mobile” describes how the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 [WCAG20] and its principles, guidelines, and success criteria can be applied to mobile web content, mobile web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps using web components inside native apps. It provides informative guidance, but does not set requirements. It also highlights the relevance of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 [UAAG20] in the mobile context.

This document is intended to become a Working Group Note and is part of a series of technical and educational documents published by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Status of This Document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at http://www.w3.org/TR/.

This document is a First Public Working Draft by the Mobile Accessibility Task Force (Mobile A11Y TF) operating under the terms of its Work Statement under the joint coordination and review of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG) and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (UAWG), which is part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This document is intended to become a W3C Note.

Feedback on this draft is essential to the success of this guidance. The Mobile Accessibility Task Force asks in particular:

  1. Is this document helpful in understanding the applicability of WCAG 2.0 and UAAG 2.0 to the mobile environment?
  2. Is the format of this information helpful for designers, developers and testers of content that can be viewed with mobile devices and in mobile apps? Is it useful for policymakers?
  3. In Appendix A, is listing relevant existing WCAG 2.0 techniques helpful for mobile content and mobile app developers?
  4. Are there additional accessibility needs in the mobile environment related to the WCAG principles that we should address?
  5. Have we sufficiently explained why keyboard interface and modality independent controls are needed in the mobile environment?

To comment on this document, send email to public-mobile-a11y-tf@w3.org (subscribe, archives) or file an issue in Github. Comments are requested by 26 March 2015. In-progress updates to the document may be viewed in the publicly visible editors' draft.

WCAG 2.0 is a stable web standard. Comments on this document will not affect WCAG 2.0 wording.

Publication as a First Public Working Draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C Membership. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

This document was produced by a group operating under the 5 February 2004 W3C Patent Policy. The group does not expect this document to become a W3C Recommendation. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and also maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group; those pages also include instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

This document is governed by the 1 August 2014 W3C Process Document.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

This section is non-normative.

This document provides informative guidance (but does not set requirements) with regard to interpreting and applying Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 [WCAG20] to web and non-web mobile content and applications.

While the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)'s W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is primarily concerned with web technologies, guidance for web-based technologies is also often relevant to non-web technologies. The W3C-WAI has published the Note Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (WCAG2ICT) to provide authoritative guidance on how to apply WCAG to non-web technologies such as mobile native applications. The current document is a mobile-specific extension of this effort.

W3C Mobile Web Initiative Recommendations and Notes pertaining to mobile technologies also include the Mobile Web Best Practices and the Mobile Web Application Best Practices. These offer general guidance to developers on how to create content and applications that work well on mobile devices. The current document is focused on the accessibility of mobile web and applications to people with disabilities and is not intended to supplant any other W3C work.

1.1 WCAG 2.0 and Mobile Content/Applications

"Mobile" is a generic term for a broad range of wireless devices and applications that are easy to carry and use in a wide variety of settings, including outdoors. Mobile devices range from small handheld devices (e.g. feature phones, smartphones) to somewhat larger tablet devices. The term also applies to "wearables" such as "smart"-glasses, "smart"-watches and fitness bands, and is relevant to other small computing devices such as those embedded into car dashboards, airplane seatbacks, and household appliances.

While mobile is viewed by some as separate from "desktop/laptop", and thus perhaps requiring new and different accessibility guidance, in reality there is no absolute divide between the categories. For example:

Furthermore, the vast majority of user interface patterns from desktop/laptop systems (e.g. text, hyperlinks, tables, buttons, pop-up menus, etc.) are equally applicable to mobile. Therefore, it's not surprising that a large number of existing WCAG 2.0 techniques can be applied to mobile content and applications (see Appendix A). Overall, WCAG 2.0 is highly relevant to both web and non-web mobile content and applications.

That said, mobile devices do present a mix of accessibility issues that are different from the typical desktop/laptop. The "Discussion of Mobile-Related Issues" section, below, explains how these issues can be addressed in the context of WCAG 2.0 as it exists or with additional best practices. All the advice in this document can be applied to mobile web sites, mobile web applications, and hybrid web-native applications. Most of the advice also applies to native applications (also known as "mobile apps").

Note: WCAG 2.0 does not provide testable success criteria for some of the mobile-related issues. The work of the Mobile Accessibility Task Force has been to develop techniques and best practices in these areas. When the techniques or best practices don't map to specific WCAG success criteria, they aren't given a sufficient, advisory or failure designation. This doesn't mean that they are optional for creating accessible web content on a mobile platform, but rather that they cannot currently be assigned a designation. The Task Force anticipates that some of these techniques will be included as sufficient or advisory in a potential future iteration of WCAG.

The current document references existing WCAG 2.0 Techniques that apply to mobile platform (see Appendix A) and provides new best practices, which may in the future become WCAG 2.0 Techniques that directly address emerging mobile accessibility challenges such as small screens, touch and gesture interface, and changing screen orientation.

A. WCAG Techniques that apply to mobile

WCAG 2.0 Techniques that Apply to Mobile

B. UAAG 2.0 Success Criteria that apply to mobile

UAAG Mobile Accessibility Examples

C. Acknowledgments

Participants in the Mobile Accessibility Task Force:
Kathleen Anderson
Jonathan Avila
Tom Babinszki
Matthew Brough
Michael Cooper (WCAG WG Staff Contact)
Gavin Evans
Detlev Fischer
Alistair Garrison
Marc Johlic
David MacDonald
Kim Patch (TF Facilitator - UAAG WG)
Jan Richards
Mike Shebanek
Brent Shiver
Alan Smith
Jeanne Spellman (UAAG WG Staff Contact)
Henny Swan
Peter Thiessen
Kathleen Wahlbin (TF Facilitator - WCAG WG)
Chairs of the WCAG WG and the UAAG WG:
Jim Allan (UAAG WG), Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Andrew Kirkpatrick (WCAG WG), Adobe Systems
Joshue O Connor (WCAG WG), National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI)

This publication has been funded in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) under contract number ED-OSE-10-C-0067. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

D. References

D.1 Informative references

James Allan; Kelly Ford; Kimberly Patch; Jeanne F Spellman. User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0. 25 September 2014. W3C Working Draft. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/UAAG20/
Ben Caldwell; Michael Cooper; Loretta Guarino Reid; Gregg Vanderheiden et al. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. 11 December 2008. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/