App makers don't consider needs of low-vision users

Mobile developers aren't taking low-vision users into consideration when creating mHealth apps, according to a study conducted by University of Washington researchers.

In an academic review of nine mHealth iPhone apps--published recently in the Journal on Technology & Persons with Disabilities--the apps were found devoid of criteria that would make them fully accessible to blind users, according to UW researchers. That's a problem for a population that is more likely to suffer more health issues ranging from obesity to diabetes, the authors say.

The apps examined had button labels that were not programmed correctly to integrate with Apple's smartphone screen reader, and many featured confusing layouts that did not sync with smartphone features that read information to a user.

"We wanted to see if these health applications would be out-of-the-box accessible, and most really weren't," says lead author Lauren Milne, a UW computer science and engineering doctoral student. "They made a lot of amateur mistakes that people make when they build apps."

Revamping the apps to be more accessible to low-vision users wouldn't involve a great deal of extra development work, according to the researchers.

Research published in spring 2014 revealed that more work needs to be done incorporating mHealth technology into diabetic patient care; the study also found a need for better self-vision testing apps.

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