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I'm designing a progressive web app that we expect people may frequently use on their mobile devices. Some of the interactions that have been discussed are using things like long-press, or holding down a button to record voice. I'm not as familiar with designing the type of application we're working on and was looking for guidance on these types of interactions.

What are the best practices for designing accessible mobile apps?

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This is a rather broad topic but in general you should start by thinking about the same types of issues that you would encounter in basic web accessibility that you would for mobile, as indicated in the W3C guidelines on mobile accessibility:

Mobile accessibility is covered in existing W3C WAI accessibility standards/guidelines. There are not separate guidelines for mobile accessibility.

But there are some additional content regarding mobile web best practices with a long list of things to consider including:

  • Navigation and Links
  • Page Layout and Content
  • Page Definition
  • User Input
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This is a great question, and you’ll find that your concerns are actually stated as requirements in industry standards concerning accessibility.

As you specifically mention gestures and long-press, I’ll answer to these first:

Gestures that require several fingers at once, or tracing a path on the screen (swiping, dragging) need to have an alternative, simple click/tap interaction.

Solutions I saw in the wild, that work well:

  • an additional menu (three points, more, overflow menu)
  • repeating the action on the detail page (like delete)

For long tap: Best practice might be to render the button additionally a toggle. I’ve seen this in several apps and it works well. I think Android’s camera uses this pattern.

Requirements on accessibility of software

I totally support Michael’s answer, in that the W3C guidelines usually can be applied to software in general, and the W3C guidelines on mobile accessibility are a great resource.

In Europe, we have our Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services, which refer to the WCAG, but also apply to software in general (chapter 11 Software).

For example:

All functionality that uses multipoint or path-based gestures for operation can be operated with a single pointer without a path-based gesture, unless a multipoint or path-based gesture is essential

11.2.5.1 Pointer gestures in EN 301 549

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