WebAIM's 10th screen reader user survey

Published 28 February 2024

WebAIM's 10th screen reader user survey

The results from WebAIM’s most recent screen reader user survey have been published. There are no surprises with the perennial CAPTCHA shown to be the most problematic of web content.

There is a sense of cautious optimism that web accessibility hasn’t gone backwards in the web industry. 47% of respondents felt web accessibility hasn’t changed whilst 35% felt it has become more accessible. Although they’re not hugely promising numbers and show the industry has a way to go.

This was WebAIM’s 10th survey results, with 1539 people responding over December – January 2023-2024. Most respondents were from the USA (47%), Europe (31%), followed by Asia (6%), Africa/Middle East (5%) and Central America and the Caribbean (2%).

Whilst 50 people (3%) from Australia and Oceania region responded.

The age breakdown was near even between 21-40 age bracket (38%) and 41-60 (36%).

Recorded disabilities

90% of the respondents identified as having a disability.

  • Blindness was the most reported at 77%,
  • followed by low vision at 20%,
  • and lower numbers of users reporting cognitive, deafness, motor, and other disability types.

Interestingly the other disability types include impairments not typically associated with screen reader usage. Showing screen reader users are not just blind people.

  • 58% of respondents identified as Advanced users,
  • followed by 36% Intermediate.

It may be tempting to draw conclusions from these figures and consider all screen readers are power users but don’t. This is a small sample of users who identify as being tech-savvy and not representative of all screen reader users.

Screen reader usage

  • 40% of respondents use JAWS as the primary screen reader,
  • followed by 38% with NVDA.

Yet for screen readers commonly used NVDA is on top at 66%, with JAWS at 60%. The change could be due to workplaces using JAWS whilst at home cost-free NVDA is preferred.

Primary browsers for screen readers users were Chrome at 52% followed by Edge. This has remained unchanged for several years. JAWS and NVDA with Chrome being the most popular combinations.

Because JAWS and NVDA are Windows programs, Windows therefore is the dominant reported operating system at 86%.

Navigational elements

On the technical details. Landmark regions still don’t feature prominently as a navigation mechanism.

  • 31% sometimes using them,
  • 21% seldom,
  • and 18% whenever they’re available.

After a high of 44% in 2013, this figure dropped over the years and is now beginning to increase. With the increase in their use, it’s perhaps time to adopt landmarks as a regular feature of navigation.

Problematic features

Most telling are the problems facing users on websites. The perennial CAPTCHA is the most problematic followed by interactive elements and ambiguous links and buttons.

We always anticipate interactive elements to feature prominently. They're often built with copious aria attributes and have irregular interaction behaviour and compatibility issues between browsers and screen readers.

Respondent's perceptions towards web accessibility are disappointing.

  • 47% felt web accessibility has not changed,
  • whilst 35% felt it had become more accessible,
  • 19% felt web content became less accessible.

It’s promising that collectively the web industry hasn’t gone backwards with web accessibility goals but it’s certainly not the significant strides hoped for.

The biggest impact

Just what is the biggest impact of improvements to web accessibility? If you had said more accessible websites, you’d be right. With 86% responding. This same question was asked in 2009 (69%), 2010 (76%), 2014 (81%) and 2021 (85%).

The report makes the point the increase in people responding with wanting more accessible websites could be reflective of improvements in assistive technology. A maturing of screen reader technology has made people expect more out of the web.

Either way, it shows there is a growing appetite for more accessible websites.

Read WebAIM's Screen Reader User Survey #10 Results for details.

*percentages rounded up

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