Senior using an iPad. Image by Centre for Ageing Better

A global survey has revealed the extent to which websites are meeting accessibility guidelines, and while many organisations reported website accessibility being a top priority, only 14 percent meet the highest accessibility standards.

Applause, a company that partners with brands for testing and digital quality, has unveiled the 2022 results of its third annual survey on digital accessibility, which coincided with Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on 19 May 2022.

The survey examines how companies prioritise accessibility when developing their digital experiences. It also explores what degree of emphasis they place on conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 – a set of international standards for making web and mobile content more accessible to people with disabilities.

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Almost 1,800 respondents completed Applause’s survey, including more than 750 respondents in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Digital accessibility focuses on how a disabled person accesses or benefits from a site, system or application.

While many organisations recognise that neglecting accessibility (A11y) can result in legal risks and lost business opportunities, full digital accessibility has additional benefits beyond risk mitigation, according to Applause.

Nearly half of respondents rated digital accessibility as a top priority, and nearly two-fifths rated accessibility as important for their organisations, while a small quantity rated accessibility as either a low priority or not even on the organisation’s radar.

Also, the majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their organisations than last year.

Despite the tendency for organisations to prioritise accessibility as noted above, it was found that well under half said their organisation’s website meets WCAG 2.1 standards. Of that group who said they do meet standards, only just over one tenth said they meet AAA, which is the highest level.

When asked about common mistakes developers make from an accessibility perspective, the respondents’ top answers were ‘error alerts are not descriptive’, ‘site and page structure is unclear’, and ‘site is not usable by screen reader’.

Nearly half of respondents said they either have limited or no in-house expertise or resources to test for accessibility on an ongoing basis without external help, while a large majority of the remainder said they have some expertise but could use more.

Luke Damian, Chief Growth Officer for Applause, said: “Organisations certainly need to comply with accessibility standards from a legal perspective. However, from a broader business perspective, it’s essential for organisations to focus on developing and releasing products that are accessible and inclusive to the greatest number of current and future users.

“To achieve that, accessibility testing should be ongoing, and conducted with input from people with disabilities, so organisations can understand how their products will perform in real-world scenarios.”

Respondents answered that the top three biggest motivators in achieving accessibility conformance: over half said ‘improving usability for all end users’, one-fifth said “building positive public perception”, and just over one tenth felt motivated by ‘gaining and maintaining market share’.

Luke added: “As a best practice, companies should go beyond the minimum and prioritise inclusive design to create seamless experiences for all customers.

“Yet many organisations do not have the in-house expertise and resources they need. This is where organisations should engage the support of specialists to help ensure they are building high-quality, fully accessible digital experiences.”

Back-end coding that supports accessible design can boost search engine optimisation, make automated testing easier, and generally improve the user experience for all potential customers, including disabled people.

 

 

 

 

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