Mobile versions of websites must be accessible to individuals with disabilities to be compliant with established laws and guidelines.

Why do mobile websites have to be accessible?

Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and extend to digital goods and services, like websites. The way many of the 25% of U.S. adults with disabilities use the web is impacted by their disabilities.

Mobile websites have to be accessible to people with disabilities and compatible with assistive technology, or millions of Americans and over a billion people worldwide may be excluded from using them fully, equally, and independently.

Are mobile websites different than desktop websites?

Some website operators create adaptive or responsive designs that adjust to different screen sizes to help them render properly across desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Some intentionally keep the mobile experience the same as or very similar to the desktop experience. Others completely disregard designing for or maintaining the mobile experience.

Whatever the strategy is for presenting content across different devices, there are differences between desktop and mobile websites, even if those differences aren't intended.

These are some of the factors of mobile devices that impact how websites render and are used on them:

  • Screen size: Smartphones and tablets have smaller screens than desktops and laptops.
  • Touchscreen: Smartphones and tablets are more likely to feature touchscreens, which handle user interface and user input.
  • Operating systems: Smartphones and tablets run on different operating systems than desktops and laptops.
  • Assistive technology and modifications: Smartphones and tablets usually offer different options for tools like screen readers and magnifiers.

Aren't mobile websites automatically accessible?

Mobile websites are not automatically accessible because the desktop version of the website is accessible or the mobile operating system contains accessibility features.

Instead, websites should be designed and developed according to established standards, tested on mobile devices by accessibility subject matter experts, updated to remove accessibility barriers, and maintained over time and as new content is created.