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How to Design the Most Accessible Apps and Games: Part I

Accessibility in mobile development means making apps and games for people with different sets of abilities. Check out part one of this two part series to learn more.

· Mobile Zone

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People that make use of accessibility features in apps and games include those with hearing or visual impairments, motor impairments, and cognitive impairments.

Thankfully, there are guidelines in place to cater to the needs of these users. These guidelines allow users to interact with your app or game intuitively. The guidelines differ from platform to platform but with a cross-platform approach, accessible app and game design is simplified for developers.

Developers also benefit from accessible design as it makes apps and games available to a wider audience and creates a more engaging user experience for your existing user base. So find out how to make your app or game more accessible to a diverse audience and see the results for yourself.

Accessibility Tips for the Visually Impaired

Users with visual impairments include those with no or limited sight, but also those with different degrees of color blindness. Check out these tips to make your app or game more accessible to those with visual impairments.

1. Use Appropriate Colors

Color blindness is a lot more prevalent than you may think. It’s estimated that between 8-10% of males suffer from problems perceiving red or green. This is a large selection of the population and means that one of your users will struggle with colors in your project at some point.

Whether you’re working on your UI design or a new game feature, remember that color isn’t enough to distinguish it from the rest of the project. Use text, symbols, or shapes to highlight the function of buttons within your UI.


How different degrees of color blindness affect people. Via 64ouncegames.com.

If you have a game feature such as a target or map, enabling the user to choose their own colors for these features is often recommended. When you have to use colors only, to denote teams or enemies, make sure to choose a color blind-friendly color palette as default. You can see some examples of these palettes here.

2. Pick the Right Font Type & Size

You can make things a lot easier for users with long-sightedness or other visual impairments by using an appropriate font size. Although Apple and Google offer guidelines on minimum font size in their best practices, you might want to increase this number when considering those with different abilities.

It’s also important to remember that using a consistent font throughout your application will make it much easier for your eyes to stay adjusted. This will save your eyes from having to work so hard, making the app more enjoyable.

Wherever possible, use simple text formatting to convey your message. Any classic font against a plain background can be read with ease. Remember that the next time you want to explore fonts!

dyslexia font

Image via mypad.northampton.ac.uk

There are some cognitive benefits to using a well-sized font too. It’s much easier for dyslexics to read a well-sized simple font as the letters are not as close together. If you can get your font size correct, then it should be easy to make the rest of your app or game accessible too.

3. Pay Attention to Buttons

Buttons can be the hardest part of engaging with an app or game for the visually impaired. Some of the problems that users encounter include buttons being too small to press or buttons being too close together.

As with font size, both Google and Apple provide best practices for button design and minimum button sizes. You can use these guidelines to begin with and then make improvements from there.

Buttons should never be close together, but if you absolutely need to have buttons close together, make sure they’re big enough to compensate for the tight contact area.

Flappy Bird is considered an industry standard when it comes to button placement and size. You can check out the V-Play version of Flappy Bird here!

Accessibility Tips for the Hearing Impaired

Users with hearing impairments include deaf people, as well as people with partial hearing or hearing loss in one or multiple ears. There are a number of other hearing disorders but these are the main ones we can combat with accessible design

4. Implement Volume Controls

While apps can be rich in UI sounds or used to play multimedia such as songs and videos, mobile games tend to require more listening attention.


Between the in-game soundtrack, UI sounds, and in-game dialogue, there are a lot of obstacles that the hearing impaired need to overcome to get the full user experience of a mobile game.

One simple way to make your mobile game more accessible is by enabling individual volume controls for all of the different types of sound featured in your game. This way, your players can determine what is most important for them to hear when playing your game.

Depending on your game, it may be necessary for a user to mute the game soundtrack or increase the volume of UI sounds in order to get the full enjoyment of your game. By giving them the choice of what they hear, you can make your app or game more accessible to those with hearing impairments.

5. Combine Audio and Visual Cues

Many apps and games make use of audio cues to tell users when they’ve received a notification or made an in-game discovery. Unfortunately for the hearing impaired, these cues can often go unnoticed.

That’s why it’s always important to give these cues in more than one way. In order to make your app or game more accessible to both the visual and hearing impaired, make sure to combine your audio cues with a visual cue, and vice versa.

Your visual cue can be something as simple as a text description of what’s happening or an animation that clearly shows something of note has occurred.

By combining audio and visual cues, you increase the amount of engagement that the hearing impaired can have. It’s a simple technique for a simple problem but that extra accessibility is sure to lead to a more positive user experience for many of your users.

6. Provide Subtitles When Necessary

If your mobile game features a backstory or shows some kind of character interaction, make sure to include subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Subtitles are easy for developers to include and are one of the most well-established accessibility features in modern society. Whether it’s TV, live performance or an ATM, subtitle implementation is a well-documented art form that doesn’t need to distract from your app or game.


Remember to use a legible font size, clear text formatting and make sure the font and background color contrast heavily. Subtitles have been a part of mobile gaming since the Nintendo GameBoy so there are plenty examples for your to look at and draw inspiration from.

Be sure to check out part two this week!

The Mobile Zone is brought to you in partnership with Strongloop and IBM.  Visually compose APIs with easy-to-use tooling. Learn how IBM API Connect provides near-universal access to data and services both on-premises and in the cloud.

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Published at DZone with permission of Michael Organ. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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