Apps for Everyone:
By Yasmine N. El-Glaly, Anthony Peruma, Daniel E. Krutz, and J. Scott Hawker,
Rochester Institute of Technology
Mobile applications (apps) should be accessible to everyone, yet many of even the most popular are not.
To address the lack of accessibility problem, we created a
set of educational modules. These modules may be used
to teach students and developers about proper methods
of creating accessible apps, and on the importance of
accessibility guidelines. Each module contains a well-defined accessibility problem, provides details about
the accessibility issue, and simulates the effects of the
accessibility barrier. Information is provided on how to fix
the accessibility issue. Additionally, each module includes
augmenting educational materials (slides, instructional
videos, etc.), and example apps.
Mobile devices consume a substantial portion of digital me-
dia in the U.S. as well as a significant portion of their users’
time. Unfortunately, many mobile apps are not fully accessible
to individuals with disabilities. This is a significant problem
since one in five Americans have a disability which could affect
their ability to use a computing device [ 4]. Hence, it becomes a
necessity to teach developers how to create accessible software.
In 2017, ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and
Technology, updated the definition of Engineering Design to
include accessibility as one of the criteria to consider in design
[ 1]. Pedagogical researchers in computing have examined nu-
merous accessibility and universal access topics in computing
courses [ 10, 12], and both accessibility advocates and industry
support teaching accessibility in undergraduate programs as
well [ 6, 11]. Two vital components are needed to engage en-
gineering students on the topic of accessibility. First, students
must be engaged in practical real-world applications, such as
developing an accessible mobile app. Second, students must
gain an empathy for people with disabilities so that the acces-
sibility guidelines will be meaningful to them. Our Mobile In-
clusive Learning Kit (MILK) modules address these goals with
real-world examples and an emulation feature designed to al-
low empathy for users with disabilities.
Developers create inaccessible apps for a variety of reasons:
• ignorance of accessibility guidelines e.g. WCAG 2.0
guidelines [ 13], and Android accessibility guidelines [ 3],
• inadequate technical abilities, and
• a lack of understanding of the importance of creating
accessible software [ 10].
Unfortunately, due to resource constraints, many institutions
lack the ability to add accessibility-related activities to their curriculum, resulting in a gap in mobile accessibility education [ 7].
The freely available MILK training modules are derived from
real-world mobile accessibility problems and are systematically
designed to cover principles that are fundamental in creating
accessible mobile applications.
Our project has two main learning objectives.
1. To inform developers about why they should create
accessible software. Creating inaccessible software
has numerous negative ethical, legal and monetary
implications. For example, Section 508, an amendment to
the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
mandates that all electronic and information technology
developed, or used by the federal government be accessible
to people with disabilities [ 2]. Violating Section 508 can
lead to filing lawsuits against the software company [ 8].
An initial step in getting developers to create accessible
software is to show them the importance of creating it.
2. To inform developers how they can create accessible software.