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Chapter 4 – Disabilities


Thanks for your interest in the Abra kick-off training about the accessibility of apps. My name is Paul van Workum and I am working in the field of app accessibility.


Let’s elaborate on disabilities. There are a lot of different kind of disabilities. Cognitive, hearing, mobility, speech, visual or impairments caused by aging. They all have their specific needs and impact.

Research shows that there are over 1 billion people in the word with a disability. The impact of inaccessible apps is different for each disability.

  • For some groups, inaccessible apps totally exclude them from participating.
  • For people who are blind or have a severe motor impairment it is essential that apps are accessible.
  • For other groups, inaccessible apps are a barrier. People who are visually impaired, hard of hearing or color-blind, benefit from increased usability when apps are accessible.

It is important to realize that accessible apps have a positive impact on everyone. Because all of us get in situations where we are temporarily disabled.

Disabilities in numbers

So, how many people have a disability? We are going to look specifically at the Netherlands. The numbers are different for each country but these numbers give insight in the approximate amounts.

Around 17.5 million people live in the Netherlands. About 4 million of them have a disability, and some people have multiple disabilities. Which means almost 1 in 4 people has a disability.


For example, there are 3.4 million elderly people. A large percentage has one or more disabilities. Besides that learning is harder and that they are often not digitally skilled their eyesight and hearing also gets worse. We expect this group to become more dependent on mobile apps in the coming years. For them, it is important to provide alternatives for sound and to support bigger font size.


For 2.5 million low-literate people it is more difficult to process and understand information. Text at B1 level is easier to understand. It also helps to use images, illustrations and videos to explain things.

Hearing impairment

For the 770.000 people with a hearing impairment it is important that videos have subtitles.


For the 45.000 deaf people, subtitles are essential to understand media like videos or podcasts.


740.000 people are color-blind. For men this is 1 in 10. Good use of color is important for people who are color-blind. Make sure there is enough contrast and take the different perception of color into account, especially with red and green.


People with dyslexia benefit from an easy to read font. Increasing the font size also makes reading easier. Also, text to speech options help them to listen to the information instead of having to read it.

Mild intellectual disability

People with mild intellectual disabilities benefit from consistency and clear instructions.

Severe motor disability

People with severe motor disabilities often operate their telephones with a keyboard or switch control. It is important that apps support this.

Visually impaired

For the 220.000 visually impaired, it helps a lot if the font can be enlarged and if landscape mode is implemented. Many visually impaired people use the zoom function for additional enlargement. It is important that an app handles this well.


Then the last, the 76.000 blind people operate their phones through a screen reader. Unfortunately, many apps do not handle this well. It is also possible that certain elements are not designed to be used through this way of interacting. For example, interaction with a hamburger menu often does not work correctly.