Accessibility and inclusivity: How mobile apps bridge the gap in public services

With digital transformation standing firmly at the front of the UK public sector’s priorities, accessibility and inclusivity can’t be overlooked. As more and more aspects of our lives move online, ensuring everyone has equal access to public services is paramount. Mobile apps have emerged as a powerful medium to bridge the gap, offering capabilities that can arguably make services more accessible and inclusive than ever before. In this edition of hot topics, we’re taking a closer look at the power of mobile apps in access equality.


The digital divide - and its impact

Especially working within the digital transformation space, you’ll have probably heard of ‘the digital divide’, but what exactly is that? Essentially, the digital divide refers to the gap between those who can comfortably use the internet, and those that can’t.

This divide can be influenced by various factors - like socioeconomic status, location, age, and disability. For public services, this divide can be the difference between being part of society and accessing crucial support - or being left behind.

Mobile apps offer a unique opportunity to address this divide. With the proliferation of smartphones, even in lower-income communities and ageing populations, mobile apps can provide an accessible platform for delivering public services. However, the way we design these apps must accommodate the diverse needs of all users to truly bridge this gap.


Accessibility in mobile apps

Accessibility in mobile apps usually refers to building apps that those with disabilities can comfortably use. This includes considerations for visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive challenges. Key elements of accessible app design include:

  • Simplified navigation: Additional needs can make complex navigation challenging. Simplifying the interface and using clear, concise, and straightforward language helps to make an app usable for everyone. Let’s face it, nobody wants complicated!
  • Voice control and screen readers: For users with visual impairments, apps should be compatible with screen readers and provide effective voice control options. Features like text-to-speech and voice commands can make a world of difference.
  • Text and visual adjustments: Apps should allow users to adjust text size, contrast, and brightness to accommodate different visual needs. High-contrast modes and customisable text sizes can significantly enhance readability. The ability to zoom in and out also goes a long way.
  • Subtitles and transcripts: For users with hearing impairments, providing subtitles for audio content and transcripts for videos ensures that all information is accessible. This has never been more important, as video becomes the nation’s favourite way to consume content.


Inclusivity in mobile apps

Inclusivity goes beyond accessibility to ensure everyone can benefit from public services, regardless of background or circumstance. Inclusive app design considers cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic factors to create a universal experience that anyone can benefit from. Important considerations for app inclusivity include:

  • Multilingual support: Britain is proudly multicultural, but we often fall down when it comes to language barriers. Offering multiple language options within the app allows us to cater for our diverse populations.
  • Offline access: Not everyone has consistent internet access, so it’s important to provide offline functionality wherever possible. This ensures users can access essential services without needing a constant network connection.
  • People-centric design & feedback mechanisms: It’s important to gather user feedback and requirements surrounding public sector apps, making sure to incorporate the findings during the development process. Implementing easy-to-use feedback mechanisms allows users to report accessibility issues and suggest improvements, fostering a continuous improvement cycle.
App Or Eform

The future of public services

It’s undeniable that the role of mobile apps in delivering public services will continue to grow – with many apps already embedded in services across NHS, healthcare and local government organisations. NDL believes technology should be an enabler, breaking down barriers and opening up opportunities. By prioritising accessibility and inclusivity in mobile apps, we can ensure that public services are truly accessible, serving every member of our society.

We follow this ethos with Digitise, our low-code app and eForm builder. Providing a drag-and-drop studio that allows the graphical building of apps without the need for advanced coding experience, Digitise (and the wider Evolve Digital Transformation Platform) is designed specifically to provide complex capabilities without knowledge barriers. Interested to know more, or need to see the studio in action? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.