Designing accessible apps for the blind and low vision community

In today's digital landscape, creating inclusive and accessible experiences is more important than ever. As technology continues to shape our daily lives, it is crucial to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision have equal access to digital platforms and services. 

May 24, 2023
Image with 3 people on it with a heading to the right with text saying reading "global accessibility awareness day 2023". The image also features a logo of Envision

In today's digital landscape, creating inclusive and accessible experiences is more important than ever. As technology continues to shape our daily lives, it is crucial to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision have equal access to digital platforms and services. 

By understanding the unique challenges faced by this group and implementing effective design strategies, developers and designers can foster inclusivity, empowering people with blindness to fully engage and participate in the digital world. From intuitive navigation to thoughtful use of assistive technologies, the design choices we make can have a profound impact on enhancing accessibility and creating a more inclusive society.

On the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2023, we spoke with accomplished founders, CEOs, CTOs, and product designers who specialize in creating highly accessible apps for people who are  blind or have low-vision (PBLV). This article aims to share their invaluable insights on app design for this community. Through their expertise and experiences, we aspire to inspire the next generation of accessibility innovators, fostering a future where technology truly empowers and includes everyone.

What was the biggest achievement/highlight for you when it came to designing and creating an accessible app for PBLV?

“Simply put, the highlight has been the broad and passionate engagement with our customers, who take the time to provide feedback and share their ideas, criticisms, and delights. Aira has a long history of design-first thinking and putting the needs of those using accessibility features such as voice-over first.  Last year we decided to rewrite our applications in a way that allowed us to meet the greater market requirements, including a web-based application for the 30+% of sessions that involve working on a computer. Since launching our redesigned and newly implemented single-codebase app on iOS, Android, Web, and Blindshell, we’ve received ongoing support from initially 20+ beta testers, and now thousands of users who tell us that we are succeeding and when we aren’t where to focus.” - Troy Otillio | CEO Aira
Not knowing when it is safe to a pedestrian signalized intersection is one of the biggest challenges when navigating as a PBLV. Our OKO app enables them to cross every pedestrian signalized intersection by using their smartphone and artificial intelligence. OKO lets you put an audible signal where you need it, not where someone else thinks it’s needed. OKO has helped cross 500,000 intersections and counting.” - Michiel Janssen | Founder AYES
“For me, nothing beats seeing real people use our app in their daily lives. Watching users navigate the app "in the wild" and witnessing how it helps them complete their tasks is an incredibly rewarding experience. It's a constant reminder that our work has a tangible impact on people's lives and motivates me to continue striving for excellence in user experience.” - Ferkan Metin | Product Designer Envision

What was the biggest challenge when it came to designing an accessible app for PBLV ?

“For starters, up until recently, there were no rapid prototyping tools that produced accessible experiences. Designing for sighted users has benefited from the up-front fast iterative process between a designer and early testers where a designer who doesn’t code can create many variations of an experience, such as a signup flow, and receive rich feedback before any investment in coding is made. There is so much nuance in the app experience that stems from the sophistication of the end-user, their choice of how to interact with a screen or a page, their preferred browser and screen reader on the web, and so forth that benefits from pre-engineering design processes. As it relates to implementation, the biggest challenge came from the vast permutations of platforms (iOS, Android, or Web), and then on the Web where there are choices for screen readers, choices for browser, and then a wider variation in users preferences in the types of shortcuts and commands they want to use. “ - Troy Otillio | CEO Aira
“One of the biggest challenges is avoiding assumptions. Despite the temptation to think we already know what users want and need, it's essential to approach each testing session with an open mind. Countless times, I've been pleasantly surprised by the insights gained during what initially seemed like "just another" testing session. These findings have helped us improve the final user experience and underscored the importance of remaining vigilant against preconceptions.” - Ferkan Metin | Product Designer Envision

Any advice you would offer to anyone wanting to design and create an accessible application?

“1. Plan and recruit a test group that includes people who use accessibility tools such as screen readers, high contrast, and other modalities to interact with your app.  Don’t assume that one user who is blind can represent the needs of all of those with vision loss, as the needs and expectations vary.  
2. Prove out and standardize on basic components early before you invest deeply in certain design and implementation patterns.  
3. Lastly, your overall development team (Designers, Developers, Testers, Product Managers) will need to install, learn and use accessibility tools such as screen readers, voice-over, talk-back, magnification, high contrast. This change takes time and support but is critical to ensure that those creating experiences will have first hand understanding of who those using the app will interact with.” - Troy Otillio | CEO Aira
“To truly understand your users, it's not enough to simply talk to them - you need to immerse yourself in their world. Spend time with your users, do what they do, and try to understand the bigger picture. This will help ensure that your final design is accessible and inclusive. By experiencing firsthand how your users interact with your product or service, you'll gain valuable insights into their needs, pain points, and behaviors. These insights will enable you to design with empathy and create a user experience that truly meets their needs.” - Ferkan Metin | Product Designer Envision

Best Practices for future accessibility app developers:

Drawing upon the invaluable insights provided by Troy, Michiel, and Ferkan we have curated a list of best practices to design apps for blind people. 

  • Provide clear and consistent navigation: Ensure that the app's navigation is intuitive, easy to understand, and consistent throughout. Use logical hierarchies, clear labels, and meaningful icons for easy exploration.
  • Implement accessibility features: Utilize built-in accessibility features of mobile operating systems, such as VoiceOver (iOS) or TalkBack (Android), to provide screen reader compatibility. This includes adding descriptive labels to UI elements and ensuring proper focus management.
  • Provide alternative text for images: Include alternative text (alt text) for all images in the app. Alt text should describe the visual content, allowing screen readers to convey the information to users who are blind.
  • Support adjustable font sizes: Allow users to customize the font size to suit their individual preferences. Provide options for scaling the text throughout the app, ensuring legibility for users with low vision.
  • Consider audio feedback: Incorporate audio feedback and cues to assist users in understanding the app's actions and status. This can include voice prompts, audio indicators, and feedback for successful actions.
  • Test with real users: Conduct usability testing and gather feedback from individuals who are blind or have low vision. This will help identify any accessibility barriers and provide insights into improving the app's usability.
  • Stay up-to-date with accessibility guidelines: Stay informed about accessibility guidelines and standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) or the Mobile Accessibility Guidelines. Regularly review and update your app to meet the latest accessibility requirements.


Designing accessible apps for the blind and low vision community is not only a matter of social responsibility but also an opportunity to create a more inclusive and empowering digital landscape. By embracing inclusive design strategies, leveraging assistive technologies, and prioritizing user feedback, we can empower the blind and low-vision community to lead more fulfilling lives.