For the last four years, those excellent people at WebAIM have surveyed screenreader users about the kit and setup they use. For some reason, I didn’t see this when it came out in May.
Here’s a brief summary of the results to help web developers who care about accessibility (that is, professional-standard web developers). I urge you to read the full report when you have 30 minutes to spare.
- The vast majority of screenreader users are on Windows (87%). The runners up are Mac (8.5%) and iOS (3.4%).
- The free, open-source screenreader NVDA “saw continued increase in usage, up to 13.7% from 2.9% in 2009 and 8.6% in 2010 (a nearly 500% increase in just 2.5 years)”. You can use NVDA to test your sites and maybe send them a donation; it literally is two blind guys in Australia who maintain it.
- The vast majority of respondents (83%) updated their primary screen reader within the previous year. Users of free screenreaders were unsurprisingly more likely to upgrade than paid screenreader users.
- Mobile screen reader usage increased 600% in just over 3 years (only 12% reported using a mobile screen reader in January 2009). 58% were on iOS devices, 20% on Nokia, 7.9% on Android.
- Internet Explorer accounts for 67.5% of the browser share among respondents – IE8 was 34%, IE9+ was 29.5%. Firefox was the runner-up at 20%. “No-one uses IE” is the same as saying “We don’t care about disabled customers”.
- ARIA landmarks (banner, contentinfo, main, navigation etc) were used “whenever they are present” by 24.6%, “often” by 15.8%, “never” by 15.6%. This is one reason for my changing my mind to support a proposed <main> element in HTML5.
- 60.8% said navigating through page headings was their primary method find information on a lengthy web page. Heading structures are therefore very important. See this blind developer’s short video Importance of HTML Headings for Accessibility for more.
- The most problematic areas for screenreader users (most frustrating first) are:
- The presence of inaccessible Flash content
- CAPTCHA – images presenting text used to verify that you are a human user
- Ambiguous links. Lose those “read more” and “click here” links, people! This isn’t a new revelation!
- Images with missing or improper descriptions (alt text)
- Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly. (Perhaps judicious use of ARIA Live Regions could alleviate this?)
I want to re-iterate my thanks to Jared Smith and the WebAIM people for collecting, collating and publishing this information.