Survey of Users with Low Vision Results

Introduction

In March 2013, WebAIM conducted a survey of users with low vision. We received 216 valid responses to this survey. This was the first survey WebAIM has conducted of this population, but we hope to conduct additional surveys of this nature again in the future. If you have recommendations or questions you would like us to ask, please contact us.

A few disclaimers and notices:

  • Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.
  • Total responses (n) for each question may not equal 216 due to respondents not answering that particular question.
  • The sample was not controlled and may not represent all users with low vision.

Demographics

Vision Level

Pie chart showing vision level

Please rate your level of vision
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Moderate Vision5023%
Low Vision7736%
Very Low Vision8941%

Age

Pie Chart of Age

Select your age
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
0-2052%
21-406028%
41-609846%
61+5023%

Pie Chart of Low Vision Caused By Age

Is your low vision primarily caused by age?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Yes147%
No19993%

Even though the majority of respondents were over age 41, these respondents did not have a higher likelihood of having Low or Very Low Vision.

Internet Proficiency

Pie Chart of Internet Proficiency

Please rate your proficiency using the Internet
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Advanced12357%
Intermediate8439%
Beginner84%

Respondents indicate a very high level of internet proficiency.

Vision Correction

Pie Chart of Pie Chart of Vision Correction

When you read or browse the web, do you wear glasses or contact lenses?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Yes11554%
No9746%

The National Eye Institute and the Vision Council of America both state that 75% of adults wear glasses or contact lenses, so these numbers are notably lower than the overall population.

Primary Device Used

Chart of devices used for navigating the web

Which of the following is your primary device for navigating the web?
Device# of Respondents% of Respondents
Desktop computer12659%
Laptop6129%
Mobile device2813%

Younger respondents were much more likely to use a mobile device and much less likely to use a desktop computer. Those aged 40 or younger were twice as likely to use a mobile device for navigating the web than those over 40.

Assistive Technologies

Bar Chart of Assistive Technologies

Which of the following do you frequently use? (Select all that apply)
Assistive Technology# of Respondents% of Respondents
Screen reader8439%
Screen magnifier software10247%
Browser zoom controls (zooms all page content)10247%
Browser text sizing controls (increases only text sizes)8238%
High contrast modes6430%
Customized page colors or custom style sheets4219%

It's clear that a wide variety of technologies are used by those with low vision. 69% of respondents use multiple technologies (e.g., a screen reader and a screen magnifier), with 15% of respondents using 4 or more of these types of technologies. Both a screen reader and a screen magnifier were used by 23% of respondents.

Operating System

Pie chart showing respondent operating systems

Operating System
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Windows15672.2%
iOS3114.3%
Apple2210.2%
Android52.3%
Linux20.9%

Operating system data above was detected from the system used to complete the survey. It is of interest that iOS is the second most common operating system. Of the iOS devices, 21 (9.7%) were using iPads and 10 (4.6%) were using iPhones.

Primary Browser

Chart showing browser usage

Which of the following is your primary web browser?
Browser# of Respondents% of Respondents
Internet Explorer10752.2%
Firefox3316.1%
Chrome3014.6%
Safari2612.7%
Opera42.0%
Others52.4%

Usage of Internet Explorer by respondents is at least twice as high as the overall population, perhaps suggesting poor support for assistive technologies or keyboard accessibility in other browsers. Screen reader users were 50% more likely to use Internet Explorer and 75% less likely to use Chrome than non-screen reader users. Respondents over age 40 were also more likely to use Internet Explorer.

For Internet Explorer users, about half of respondents used IE 9 or newer and half used IE 8 or older.

JavaScript Enabled

Pie chart showing respondents with JavaScript enabled

Respondents with JavaScript enabled
JavaScript Enabled# of Respondents% of Respondents
Yes21599.5%
No10.5%

JavaScript support was detected when the survey was submitted. These results clearly indicate that it is important that scripted interfaces be made accessible to low vision users.

Primary Screen Reader

Pie chart showing Primary Screen Reader

Which of the following is your primary desktop/laptop screen reader?
Screen Reader# of Respondents% of Respondents
ZoomText4540%
JAWS2926%
VoiceOver1211%
NVDA98%
System Access or System Access To Go22%
Window-Eyes22%
MAGic with Speech11%
ChromeVox00%
Other1211%

112 respondents indicated that they use a screen reader. As would be expected, ZoomText usage is much higher among users with low vision than among all users of screen readers. However, we note that some caution may be in order regarding this data as it's possible that some respondents may have selected ZoomText because they use the screen magnification functions of this software, but do not use the screen reader functions of this software.

Mobile Platforms

Chart showing mobile platform usage

Which of the following is your primary mobile platform?
Mobile Platform# of Respondents% of Respondents
Apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch9343.1%
Android3918.1%
Nokia177.9%
Blackberry62.8%
Windows Phone10.5%
Other189.6%
None or No Response4219.4%

As with screen reader users, Apple dominates in the mobile space for users with low vision. Those with very poor vision are more likely to use an iOS device than users with less severe vision loss, and they are four times more likely to use an iOS device than an Android phone.

Mobile Accessibility Settings

Pie Chart of Mobile/Tablet Accessibility Settings

Do you use the accessibility settings or accessibility software on a mobile phone or tablet?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Yes13463%
No7837%

Those who primarily use an iOS device are much more likely than users of other devices to use accessibility settings or software.

Keyboard Navigation

Pie chart showing keyboard usage

How often do you use the keyboard for web page navigation?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Always4924.5%
Often4623.0%
Sometimes5929.0%
Seldom3316.5%
Never1417%

Keyboard usage is very mixed among respondents. It is of note, however, that 47.5% of respondents always or often use a keyboard for web page navigation. Those with very poor vision are three times more likely to always use a keyboard than users with moderate vision. 66.6% of screen reader users reported always or often using a keyboard, but even 29.5% of those who don't use a screen reader use the keyboard always or often.

Text Sizes

Pie chart showing text size opinions

Without applying any zoom, text, or page magnification, how do you find the size of text on web pages to be?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Too small17093%
Just right116%
Too big21%

This shouldn't necessarily suggest that web sites need to increase their text size, but it clearly indicates that standard text sizes on the web are not adequate for the vast majority of users with low vision.

Text Resizing Widgets

Chart showing usefulness of text resizing widgets

Some pages include controls for users to increase the text size on that page. How useful to you are these text resizing widgets?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very useful4627%
Somewhat useful7645%
Not at all useful4627%

Opinions of in-page text resizing widgets are very mixed. Respondents who always or often use a keyboard found these widgets much less useful than non-keyboard users. Interestingly, those who use browser text sizing options were twice as likely to find in-page text resizing widgets very useful than those who do not use these browser settings. Those with beginning internet proficiency were much more likely to find them useful than those with advanced internet proficiency.

Chart showing preferences for text resizing widgets

Do you wish more pages included text resizing widgets?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Yes12578%
No3522%

The majority of respondents would like to see more in-page resizing widgets. Care should be taken, however, in considering the impact of such widgets on other users.

User Controls

Chart showing usefulness of user controls

Some pages include controls for users to select other styles, increase contrast, or to change the colors on that page. How useful to you are these controls?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very useful4328%
Somewhat useful7247%
Not at all useful3925%

Magnification Level

Chart showing level of magnification

Approximately what level of magnification do you most commonly use?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
No magnification is used2212%
Less than 2X or 200%4424%
2X or 200%3921%
3X or 300%3117%
4X or 400% or larger4625%

Color Contrast

Chart showing importance of color contrast

How important is adequate color contrast between foreground and background text to you?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very important12667%
Somewhat important4524%
Not very important126%
Not at all important53%

It is clear from these responses that adequate contrast is important to users with low vision with 91% of respondents saying it is very or somewhat important.

Web Accessibility Progress

Chart showing web accessibility progress

Which of the following best describes your feelings regarding the accessibility of web content over the previous year?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Web content has become more accessible5728.6%
Web content accessibility has not changed11155.8%
Web content has become less accessible3115.6%

Social Media Accessibility

Chart showing social media accessibility

In general, how accessible are social media web sites to you?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very Accessible2613.7%
Somewhat Accessible8243.2%
Somewhat Inaccessible4523.7%
Very Inaccessible157.9%
I Don't Know2211.6%

Problematic Items

The survey asked respondents to select their most, second most, and third most problematic items from a list. In giving each selected item a weighting, the following chart shows the overall rating of difficulty and frustration for each item.

Chart showing Most Problematic Items

Problematic items identified are (in order, with most difficult/frustrating first):

  1. Complex page layouts
  2. Content that becomes unreadable when enlarged
  3. Poor contrast
  4. CAPTCHA - images presenting text used to verify that you are a human user
  5. Pop-up windows or dialog boxes
  6. Complex or difficult forms
  7. Too many links or navigation items
  8. Missing or improper headings
  9. Poor keyboard accessibility
  10. Complex data tables
  11. Lack of skip to main content links

Complex page layouts were by far identified as the most problematic item. While 69% of respondents found skip links very or somewhat useful, lack of skip links was the least problematic item identified. 47.5% of respondents always or often use a keyboard, yet they also found poor keyboard accessibility a low impact issue.

Conclusion

This data shows very diverse demographics and opinions among those with low vision. Respondents used a wide variety of assistive technologies, with most respondents using multiple technologies. For designers and developers, there is no single tool, technique, or approach to meeting the needs of this population. And great care should be taken in implementing solutions for this audience which may impact usability or accessibility for other site users.