Accessibility Attitudes, Bugs and More
Today is the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), celebrated to spotlight the need for ongoing focus on accessibility and inclusivity. If you work in a company that creates digital products or solutions, you likely understand that while this day is an important annual marker, accessibility and inclusivity must be on our minds all year long. In this blog, I touch on some key accessibility and inclusivity statistics that Applause has uncovered over the last year in our State of Digital Quality 2022 report series, as well as a May 2022 survey of over 1800 people in our global testing community. These help give insight on the topic. First, a few definitions.
What is the difference between accessibility and inclusive design?
Digital accessibility is the ability of a mobile app, website or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by the widest range of users, including persons with disabilities (PwD) with low vision, blindness, auditory challenges/deafness, motor/mobility or neuro-diversity. WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) is an international accessibility standard and is highly influential around the world, though it has no legal standing or enforcement. The European Accessibility Act (EAA), on the other hand, has both. By July of 2025, the EAA will require many private companies that do business in the EU to adhere to the EAA. If they don't, they may be subject to fines or other legal action. Lawsuits arising around digital accessibility typically come from country-specific disabilities laws and their interpretation.
Inclusive design is a human-centric approach to how software development organizations approach design. Rather than focusing on design for PwD alone, inclusive design is a methodology that considers many aspects of human diversity that could affect a person's ability to use a product or service, such as ability, language, culture, gender, and age. This applies to digital environments as well as physical ones. Inclusive design is much more than adhering to accessibility guidelines. At Applause, we believe that inclusive design efforts contribute to empathy-based design, as software designers and engineers get to know persons with disabilities who point out the struggles that they have using specific apps and websites.
Digital accessibility is a major consideration for business today
The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability — and that number is increasing. Building accessible digital experiences has farther-reaching benefits than simply making sure you’re not losing potential revenue from people with disabilities (PwD). While many organizations recognize that neglecting accessibility can put the business at risk, full digital accessibility has many benefits beyond risk mitigation.
In our State of Digital Quality Report 2022, our global testers were involved in 1083 test cycles in 18 countries across 20 industries, and found just shy of 33,000 accessibility bugs in the following distribution:
Screen readers - 65.5%
Color contrast - 11.1%
Keyboard navigation - 9.2%
Other accessibility - 6.2%
HTML validator - 3.3%
Zoom - 2.4%
Color - 1.8%
Consider the top bug issue: screen readers. While missing labels for screen readers are easily rectified, they are crucial for many people with disabilities. If a developer hasn’t assigned a name, role or value to an interactive element, the screen reader might simply say “button,” leaving the user no idea what to do. Filling out forms and changing passwords can also be very difficult for visually impaired users. For example, when a blind user enters a wrong value on a form, it may create an error message that a sighted user can see, but a screen reader will not describe the error, leaving the blind user no way to proceed.
Don't wait for a lawsuit to focus on accessibility - lawsuits and retrofitting digital properties are very expensive. Embracing accessibility using inclusive design has the added benefits of increasing brand awareness, loyalty and more.
Consider a variety of testing approaches by URL, app screen or scenario - testing on Chrome and the JAWS screen reader, then the same page on iOS and Android may reveal issues that would otherwise go unfound without the comparison.
Test using persons with disabilities - even sites that are WCAG compliant can make it difficult or impossible for some users to complete a task. Using real users to consult and test your apps helps avoid this issue.
Applause worldwide May 2022 accessibility and inclusivity survey
We recently surveyed over 1800 testers in our worldwide community to pulse their perspectives on accessibility/inclusivity prioritization and execution in their firms. Here are some key highlights:
Up 8% since 2021 this is a great statistic to see, building evidence that accessibility is gaining worldwide momentum.
Is digital accessibility a higher priority due to Covid-19?
(2022) - 69.3% agree/strongly agree
(2021) - 68.7% agree/strongly agree
Indicate how strongly you agree with the following statement: Digital accessibility is a higher priority for my company this year than it was last year.
(2022) - 68.68% agree/strongly agree
(2021) - 73% agree/strongly agree
Does your team employ a digital accessibility expert?
Does your company's website meet WCAG 2.1 standards?
What level of WCAG 2.1 standards does your company meet? (see level definitions)
As an engineer, how often do you write code with accessibility in mind?
Do product developers consider accessibility during design?
(2022) - 73.22 say yes; 26.78% say no
(2021) - 76.4% say yes; 16.4% say no
What common mistake do you see developers making from an accessibility perspective?
(2022) - #1: site and page structure are unclear (13.55%) and #2: lack of caption/transcripts on videos (13.44%)
(2021) - #1: error alerts are not descriptive (34.6%) and #2: site and page structure is not clear (34.4%)
How does this person incorporate inclusive design?
22.14% - They bring in persons with disabilities from outside our company to discuss key considerations for design and development
26.20% - We have various persons with disabilities on staff who help give us insight
33.28% - We use public knowledge around people with disabilities to do inclusive design, but do not directly interact with them
17.98% - Don't know
Accessibility and inclusive design: siblings in creating great experiences for all
Companies that overlook digital accessibility miss an opportunity in product design and development, given that many features that benefit PwD hold appeal for a wide range of other customers. For example, voice functionality that serves people with limited mobility may also prove valuable for a user with their hands full, while closed captions on a video may be helpful for viewers learning to read as well as for the hearing-impaired.
In addition, accessible and inclusive digital properties broaden market penetration, opening your products to not only PwD, but the broader market of their friends and families. Accessibility tags on websites can improve SEO as well, making your products easier to find. Accessibility and inclusivity efforts build a positive brand image, demonstrating that you care about all persons’ experiences, and as mentioned previously, accessibility tags on websites serve to aid automation around testing and web updates. Of course, all of this helps mitigate legal risk.
There’s a lot to digest around the path to digital accessibility. Learn the key considerations for creating fully accessible digital experiences.Read Now