WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

Screen Reader User Survey #5 Results


In January 2014, WebAIM conducted a survey of preferences of screen reader users. We received 1465 valid responses to this survey. This was a follow-up survey to the original WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey of January 2009 and the follow-up surveys from October 2009, December 2010, and May 2012. Additional surveys were conducted in July 2015 and October 2017.

A few disclaimers and notices:

  • Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.
  • Total responses (n) for each question may not equal 1465 due to respondents not answering that particular question.
  • The sample was not controlled and may not represent all screen reader users.
  • 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.



Pie chart showing respondents region

Region of Respondents
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
North America87861.4%
Australia and Oceania463.2%
Africa/Middle East211.5%
South America362.5%
Central America and Caribbean50.3%

Disability Reported

Pie chart showing reported disability

Do you use a screen reader due to a disability?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents

Some have inquired about why our data includes both users with and without disabilities. In general, we've found survey question responses to be very similar across these two groups. Any notable differences are detailed below to help us determine differences in practices or perceptions between the disability and the developer communities.

Screen Reader Proficiency

Pie Chart of Screen Reader Proficiency

Please rate your screen reader proficiency
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents

Screen reader proficiency of respondents has increased slightly in each successive survey. Those who use screen readers due to a disability report themselves as being much more proficient with screen readers - 60% of those with disabilities considered their proficiency to be "Advanced" compared to only 20% of those without disabilities.

Internet Proficiency

Pie Chart of Internet Proficiency

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

Internet proficiency has generally remained the same across all surveys.

Devices Used

Chart of devices used with screen readers

On which of the following devices do you use a screen reader?
Device# of Respondents% of Respondents
Desktop computer114878%
Mobile device105572%

Mobile usage of screen readers continues to increase significantly - from 61% in May 2012 to 72% in January 2014. Desktop usage has slightly decreased while laptop usage has slightly increased and now outpaces desktop usage.

1232 (85%) of respondents use multiple devices. 698 respondents (48%) use a screen reader on all three devices. Only 12 respondents (less than 1%) report using a screen reader exclusively on a mobile device, so while mobile adoption is increasing, very few users are using mobile devices exclusively.

Operating System

Pie chart showing respondent operating systems

Operating System
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents

Operating system data above was detected from the system used to complete the survey. Windows usage decreased from 87% to 82.8% since May 2012. Of the iOS devices, 35 were using iPhones, 25 were using iPads, and 5 were using iPods.

Primary Screen Reader

Primary Screen Reader

Which of the following is your primary desktop/laptop screen reader?
Screen Reader# of Respondents% of Respondents
System Access or System Access To Go1117.7%

While JAWS is still the most popular screen reader and has seen a significant decline in primary usage over the years, usage has stabilized since 2012 at around 50%. Window-Eyes saw its usage cut almost in half over the previous 19 months, from 12.3% in May 2012 to only 6.7% in January 2014. It will be interesting to see how Window-Eyes usage changes in the future now that it is available for Microsoft Office users. NVDA saw a notable increase and VoiceOver a minor increase. SA and ZoomText saw decreases in usage as a primary screen reader. While they were not listed for simplicity's sake, the survey comments indicate that Orca, SuperNova, and Speakup (among others) were common "Other" screen readers.

Regional differences are of note. JAWS was much more popular in Asia (65% of respondents) and North America (52%) than in Europe/UK (44%). NVDA was nearly 3 times more popular in Europe/UK than in North America.

Screen Readers Commonly Used

Screen Readers Commonly Used

Which of the following desktop/laptop screen readers do you commonly use?
Screen Reader# of Respondents% of Respondents
System Access or System Access To Go23726.2%

JAWS usage on desktop/laptop is now stable while NVDA, VoiceOver, and SystemAccess saw continued increases. Window-Eyes saw a notable decrease in usage since May 2012.

Chart of screen reader usage showing decreases in JAWS and increases in VoiceOver and NVDA.

62% of respondents use more than one desktop/laptop screen reader. 27% use three or more, and 9% use four or more different screen readers.


Chart showing browser usage

When using your primary screen reader, which browser do you use most often?
Browser# of Respondents% of Respondents
Internet Explorer 9+55638.9%
Internet Explorer 818012.6%
Internet Explorer 6604.2%
Internet Explorer 7433.0%

Internet Explorer usage decreased from 67.5% in May 2012 to 58.7% in January 2014, but is still the most commonly used browser. This is significantly higher than that of the general population (most statistics place it at around 20%). 7.2% of respondents still use IE6 or IE7, compared to just .5% of the general population.

Usage of Chrome at 2.8% is very significantly below the 42% usage of the general population, presumably due to lack of screen reader support in Chrome (ChromeVox excluded, though only .4% of respondents use ChromeVox as their primary screen reader).

JavaScript Enabled

Pie chart showing respondents with JavaScript enabled

Respondents with JavaScript Enabled
JavaScript Enabled% of Respondents

Prevalence of JavaScript being enabled was down only slightly from May 2012 (98.6%). The vast majority of those with JavaScript disabled were using Firefox (presumably with the NoScript add-on enabled) or were using Lynx on Linux.

Free/Low-cost Screen Readers

Pie chart showing viability of free/low cost screen readers

Do you see free or low-cost screen readers (such as NVDA or VoiceOver) as currently being viable alternatives to commercial screen readers?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
I Don't Know19914.1%

The positive perception of free or low-cost screen readers continues to increase. Positive responses to this question were 48% in October 2009, 60% in December 2010, 67% in May 2012, and 74% in January 2014.

Only 65% of JAWS users and 58% of Window-Eyes users answered "Yes" (these numbers continue to increase each year) compared to an overwhelming 94% of VoiceOver users, 93% of NVDA users, and 72% of SystemAccess users. Those that actually use free or low-cost screen readers have a much better perception of them than those who do not use them. Respondents with "Advanced" screen reader proficiency were also more favorable of free/low-cost screen readers.

Mobile Screen Readers

Mobile Screen Reader Usage

Chart showing mobile screen reader usage

Do you use a screen reader on a mobile phone or mobile handheld device?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents

The increase in mobile screen reader usage continues to astound. Only 12% reported using a mobile screen reader in January 2009 compared to 82% just five years later.

Chart of mobile screen reader adoption showing increases from 12% in 2009 to 82% in 2014.

Those with advanced screen reader proficiency were much more likely to use a screen reader on a mobile device than those with low screen reader proficiency (90% compared to 53%). Respondents in North America were less likely to use a mobile screen reader than respondents from nearly every other region represented.

Mobile Platforms

Chart showing mobile platform usage

Which of the following is your primary mobile platform?
Mobile Platform# of Respondents% of Respondents
Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch81665.2%
Windows Phone40.3%

iOS usage continued its increase from 32.6% in December 2010 to 58.5% in May 2012 to 65.2% in January 2014. Android usage doubled in the previous 19 months (7.9% to 16.0%) while Nokia device usage decreased (20.3% to 14.3%, down from 42.4% in December 2010). Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Palm combined represent less than 1% of usage.

Chart of mobile platform usage.

iOS device usage among screen reader users is notably higher than for the standard population, whereas Android usage is much, much lower. Those with more advanced screen reader and internet proficiency were much more likely to use iOS over Android or Nokia.

Mobile Screen Readers Used

Mobile Screen Readers Commonly Used

Which of the following mobile screen readers do you commonly use? (Choose all that apply)
Mobile Platform# of Respondents% of Respondents
TalkBack for Android31621.6%
Nuance Talks22815.6%
Mobile Speak835.7%
Mobile Accessibility for Android463.1%
Orator/Oratio for BlackBerry7.5%

As with primary mobile screen readers, VoiceOver and Android screen reader usage increased while nearly every other mobile screen reader decreased in usage. 21% of respondents commonly use multiple mobile screen readers.

Mobile vs. Desktop/Laptop Usage

Chart showing mobile vs. desktop/laptop usage

Do you use a mobile/tablet screen reader more than a desktop/laptop screen reader?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
About the same43232%

44% of respondents use mobile screen readers more than or about as much as desktop/laptop screen readers.

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 accessible52036.7%
Web content accessibility has not changed58741.5%
Web content has become less accessible30921.8%

For the first time in 5 years of surveys, respondents are more positive about web accessibility progress than in the previous survey. Only 21.8% thought web content has become less accessible, compared to 25.2% in May 2012.

Impacts on Accessibility

Chart showing impacts on accessibility

Which of the following do you think would have a bigger impact on improvements to web accessibility?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Better (more accessible) web sites116681.3%
Better assistive technology26818.7%

Over time, more respondents have answered "better web sites" to this question - 68.6% of respondents in October 2009, 75.8% in December 2010, and now 81.3% in January 2014. This change perhaps reflects improvements to assistive technology. It certainly indicates that users expect site authors to address accessibility.

Text-only or Screen Reader Versions

Chart showing use of text-only or screen reader versions

If a text-only or screen reader version of a web site is available, how often do you use it?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Whenever they're available33823.1%
No Response513.5%

These responses are largely unchanged from previous surveys, though users are slightly more likely to use text-only or screen reader versions now than in the past. Only 17% of those without disabilities reported using text-only or screen reader versions often or whenever they're available compared to 43% of those with disabilities. This may suggest that those with disabilities find greater usage in text-only or screen reader versions than those without disabilities might think or hope. Despite this, the fact that so many users seldom or never use such sites suggests that this approach to accessibility is not optimal.

Screen Reader Detection

Chart showing comfort with screen reader detection

How comfortable would you be with allowing web sites to detect whether you are using a screen reader?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very comfortable76754.0%
Somewhat comfortable34624.4%
Not very comfortable1178.2%
Not at all comfortable1228.6%
I don't know684.8%

The vast majority (78.4%) of screen reader users are very or somewhat comfortable with allowing screen reader detection. 55.4% of those with disabilities indicated they were very comfortable with screen reader detection compared to 31.4% of respondents without disabilities.

Screen Reader Detection for Better Accessibility

Chart showing comfort with screen reader detection if the result is better accessibility

How comfortable would you be with allowing web sites to detect whether you are using a screen reader if doing so resulted in a more accessible experience?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Very comfortable93666.4%
Somewhat comfortable28420.1%
Not very comfortable785.5%
Not at all comfortable815.7%
I don't know312.2%

86.5% of respondents were very or somewhat comfortable with allowing screen reader detection if it resulted in better accessibility. Historically, there has generally been resistance to web technologies that would detect assistive technologies - primarily due to privacy concerns and fear of discrimination. These responses clearly indicate that the vast majority of users are comfortable with revealing their usage of assistive technologies, especially if it results in a more accessible experience.

Reasons for Inaccessibility

Chart showing reasons for inaccessibility

Which of the following do you think is the primary reason that many developers do not create accessible web sites?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Lack of awareness of web accessibility56639.6%
Lack of web accessibility skills or knowledge39227.4%
Fear that accessibility will hinder the look, feel, or functionality35024.5%
Lack of budget or resources to make it accessible1228.5%

Responses were virtually identical to those given to the October 2009 survey. Those with disabilities were much more likely to attribute poor accessibility to lack of awareness, whereas those without disabilities (presumably developers) predominantly attributed it to lack of skills or knowledge.


Chart showing usage of landmarks/regions

How often do you navigate by landmarks/regions in your screen reader?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Whenever they are present35425.5%

Compared to previous surveys, the knowledge of and use of landmarks has increased slightly. 48% of JAWS users always or often navigate by landmarks, compared to 41.4% of NVDA users and 34.9% of VoiceOver users.

Number of Landmarks/Regions

Chart showing preferred number of landmarks/regions

How many landmarks/regions per page do you think is optimal?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
More than 10825.6%
No response or I don't know58940.2%

Most respondents favor few landmarks/regions per page. Of note is that over 40% of respondents didn't respond or didn't know.

Finding Information

Pie chart showing methods for finding information on a page

When trying to find information on a lengthy web page, which of the following are you most likely to do first?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Navigate through the headings on the page94165.6%
Use the "Find" feature21815.2%
Navigate through the links of the page1409.8%
Navigate through the landmarks of the page402.8%
Read through the page966.7%

Reliance on headings as the predominant mechanism for finding page information continues to increase - 50.8% in October 2009, 60.8% in May 2012, and 65.6% in January 2014. While 43.8% of respondents indicate that they always or often use landmarks when they are present, only 2.8% use this method for finding information on a lengthy web page. Those with advanced screen reader proficiency are more likely to use headings (71% use headings) than those with beginner proficiency (43% use headings).