Screen Reader User Survey Results

The results from WebAIM’s most recent survey are now available at http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey2/. Thank you to those who participated. We had 665 responses to the survey. The data collected is informative, useful, and will help direct development of accessible content for screen reader users.

Be sure to check out the results of our previous survey as well.

While the full details are available, here are a few findings we found interesting, surprising, or relevant:

  • JAWS continues to be the most popular screen reader (75%). Window Eyes use remains at 24%. However, NVDA (26%), System Access (23%), and VoiceOver (15%) all saw tremendous increases in usage in the 10 months since our previous survey.
  • 83.6% of respondents updated their primary screen reader within the last year.
  • 50% of respondents (53% of respondents with disabilities) use a screen reader on a mobile device.
  • 75% of respondents do not have javascript disabled in their primary web browser.
  • 42% of respondents did not know that ARIA landmark functionality even exists.
  • CAPTCHA, Flash, ambiguous links, poor/missing alternative text, complex forms, and poor keyboard accessibility are cited as the most problematic items on the web
  • YouTube (51.3%) and blogs (47.7%) are the most commonly used social media tools, with LinkedIn (13.4%) and MySpace (9.0%) rarely used.
  • The majority of respondents found blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube to be accessible and most reported LinkedIn as being inaccessible.
  • 62.6% say it is somewhat unlikely or very unlikely for Flash content to be accessible to them.
  • Headings are the primary mechanism (50.8% of respondents) for finding information within a page.

Please take some time to review the survey results. We will be posting observations and details from the survey’s open ended questions in the near future. If you have questions, want us to analyze a particular piece of data, or have recommendations for a future survey, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Comments

  1. Kelly Ford

    It would be interesting to see data on the ARIA landmark question organized by screen reader use. For example, did people who indicate they use a screen reader that has no landmark support respond that they actually use landmarks?

  2. Jared Smith

    Kelly-

    Very good question. It’s a bit difficult to get very good numbers here because the n is pretty low because most responded that they didn’t know it exists and a lot of respondents didn’t even answer the question. Of those remaining, their responses generally align with the screen reader(s) they use. For example, JAWS users are more likely to say they use landmarks than users of Window Eyes or VoiceOver which doesn’t yet support landmarks. Though it’s not a direct correlation, probably because a lot of users use multiple screen readers.

    As would be expected, IE8 users are also more likely to use landmarks than IE6 or 7 (which don’t support ARIA) users.

    While screen reader and browser support is an issue, these results highlight that educating users about landmark use may be as big of a problem.

  3. adrian higginbotham

    also on the landmark topic, the question didn’t really pick up on the possibility that screenreader users are aware of them but don’t use them for which there are of course multiple reasons including not least they they rarely encounter them in use in the wild or that when they do they aren’t useful. good to investigate this maybe next year when awareness might have lifted. overall though as a screenreader user I’d say it’s a very accurate picture of the experience of moderate and higher skilled screenreader users. good work once again.

  4. Terrill Thompson

    Thanks again Jared and WebAIM for collecting this valuable information. A couple of results jump out at me:

    In the above summary you state that 75% of respondents do not have javascript disabled in their primary web browser. On reading the full report, I see that the remaining 25% include 14.7% who don’t know, and 10.4% who do indeed have Javascript disabled (that’s 62 people). Although the latter isn’t a huge number, it nevertheless should encourage us to pause for a moment, as there’s a growing expectation among web developers that all users should and do have Javascript enabled.

    Similarly, 83.6% of survey participants upgraded their screen reader in the last year, but 16.4% (105 people) did not. We don’t know how long it’s been since those 105 people upgraded, but I personally know a few folks who simply can’t afford to upgrade and are still using very old assistive technology.

    Both of these issues have implications for how we develop websites. Is there a point at which the number of users with old screen readers or Javascript disabled is so low that we can justify developing sites with certain expectations (e.g., Javascript and eventually, ARIA support)? As web applications become more and more interactive and complex, it becomes more and more challenging to build them in ways that degrade gracefully for all users.

  5. Jared Smith

    Terrill-

    Thank you for your comments and insight. Our previous survey shows a lot of users have screen readers that are several years old – 6% over 3 years old.

    You bring up some very good points and questions. With accessibility, I think there is always a minimal threshold that we must support. The user does have to come to the table with something. While I think the trends are showing that more users have javascript enabled and have newer screen readers, I don’t think we’re nearly to the point where javascript (or ARIA) reliance should be standard practice.

  6. Jim Tobias

    Thanks again for your excellent survey! As I said last time, you should seek support for an extensive study of typical screen reader users; those results would include many more “beginners” — and maybe even some abandoners. All in search of the answer to the question: how successful is our overall effort at accessibility, including funding, training, support, etc.

    I was confused on one point: “progress in accessibility”. You commented that users with disabilities were 4 times as likely to think accessibility had declined, and they were 90% of the respondents, but the numbers did not indicate this result. Did I misunderstand something? Was it “4 times as likely” compared to the last survey?

  7. Jared Smith

    Jim-

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, a very in-depth analysis of accessibility would be wonderful, if only we had a small sum of money to fund such efforts. Everything here is done at our expense. A full-scale scientific study that extends beyond online participants is a bit beyond our means, though it would make a great grant proposal.

    The “4 times as likely” reflects that 6% of respondents without disabilities and 21% of those with disabilities indicate that web accessibility has declined.

  8. E.A. Draffan

    Just to say a big thank you for carrying out this survey at your own expense, as it in incredibly helpful for those of us trying to evaluate websites and to see where the issues arise. It is never wise to show the results of ones evaluations, as testing is such a subjective operation, but we have found that many of the Web 2.0 interactive sites failed on exactly the items you listed above (http://www.web2access.org.uk) so it was great to have this verified.

  9. Gary Miller

    Congratulations yet again! Another valuable piece of research which every serious web designer/developer should familiarise themselves with…

    Thanks.

  10. Andy Mabbett

    You write: “75% of respondents do not have javascript disabled in their primary web browser”. Surely the pertinent fact is that “25% (1 in 4!) of respondents have javascript disabled in their primary web browser”?

  11. B. Cavalier

    While attempting to find the solution to a screen reading problem, I came upon your web site. I fall into a group that surveys would not be likely to reach – those past the years of formal education, no longer working within a corporate environment, and not yet classified ‘senior’ population. Certainly I cannot speak for anyone else, but I’m not merely challenged these days regarding screen reader accessibility, I’m lost. (Landmark use? ARIA support?) Updating my software doesn’t solve this problem. (I do manage to update my screen reader program every two years, but have only done so in an effort to reduce the increasing number of problems – not because I want or need new features.) I, too, feel that site accessibility is declining; This may be due to the anger I feel towards myself at not having the skill/energy/intellect to navigate – physically or emotionally – a complex and fragmented system. In addition, believing the ADA law, nearing its 20th anniversary, would miraculously solve the web access problem reflects my naivette. Thanks to each of you who have contributed so much to this project.

  12. Jules

    I am wondering how screen reader users handle lists, especially in accessible PDFs although some of the issues are similar to those in HTML lists as well.

    The issue is that if an unordered (HTML) or numbered (PDF) list uses Roman numerals, using JAWS 10 and 11 (demo mode), the first five items are read out as “i”, “2″, “3″, “iv”, “v” (without the quotes). How do screen reader users handle this?

    Using bulleted lists (PDF), I thought JAWS was behaving fine because it spoke “bullet” at the beginning of each list but when I changed bullet character, it read out the name of the bullet such as “oh” for open circle symbol, “solid square” or “black diamond suit” for two other symbols and for some symbols, nothing was spoken. How do screen reader users deal with this type of situation?

  13. Jules

    I am buoyed by the fact that most screen reader users use headings to find information on a lengthy page. What is not clear is how many use Find because the pages do not have headings or whether they use Find anyway?

  14. Ravindra Papineni

    This is great. I wonder if we can have a PDF of the survey results for filing.
    Thanks,
    Ravi

  15. Zirkon Kalti

    One of the area that is not mentioned in the webAIM survey is Flash content. Apart from that, the webAIM survey continues is an invaluable resource for web developers.

  16. Webstandard-Blog

    Using tools like Jaws is one of the best ways to verify accessibility-problems with website or apps. It should part of every quality assurance.

  17. Ron

    JAWS is a Great tool i firmly recommend it .
    Great Post BTW , development of accessible content for screen reader users is an important cause ,i really hope that webmasters will start to pay more attention to this issue .

    Ron

  18. cell phone stun gun

    This is great. I wonder if we can have a PDF of the survey results for filing.
    Thanks,

  19. augustus rey

    JAWS is my favorite screen reader that i have used for many projects.This survey gives some good results on usage of screen readers.

  20. Karen Sorensen

    Hi – I realize this is an old post, but in case anyone is still monitoring it…

    Our college is trying to decide between Microsoft and Google apps
    for our faculty/staff and student email and calendaring. How
    accessible are gmail and Google’s calendaring system?

    The committee making this decision just saw this Educause video that
    rightly so, raised their concern about the accessibility of Google
    apps. http://educause.mediasite.com/mediasite/SilverlightPlayer/Default.aspx?peid=89d2ceaf2d8a46be827c1829356bab801d&playFrom=3841000

    What are your thoughts?

    Here is Google’s lab page on their accessibility:
    http://labs.google.com/accessible/overview.html

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights.