In May, the world celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an annual event focused on digital access and inclusion. According to GAAD's website, 98.1% of home pages have at least one Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 failure and approximately 60.9 average errors per home page. Applause found similar results in its Accessibility and Inclusive Design Survey. The survey discovered that there hasn't been much progress over the past three years, and in worst case scenarios, product developers are less likely to build accessibility into design plans for digital products.
More 68% of respondents said that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their organizations than it was last year. At the same time, nearly 43% of respondents rated digital accessibility as a top priority for their organizations, down slightly from 46% in 2022; and 37% rated accessibility as important. When asked about their personal level of understanding of digital accessibility, more than one-third of respondents rated their knowledge level as either basic (28%) or very little (7.5%). Under 6% consider themselves experts.
In addition, more than 29% of product developers surveyed said they do not build accessibility into their design plans at the earliest stages (up from 27% in 2022 and 24% in 2021). In a more positive development, just less than one-fourth of the engineers who participated in the survey said they always write code with accessibility in mind, an increase from 15% in 2022.
The survey also asked respondents to rate their organizations' levels of conformance with Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, and found that just over one-third are conforming, up from 30% in 2022. When asked why, respondents' biggest motivations were "improving usability for all end users" (45%), "building positive public perception" (22%) and "gaining and maintaining market share" (15%).
With updates to WCAG expected in September 2023, now is the time for companies to bring new focus to accessibility. The guidelines should serve as a motivation for companies looking to build more inclusive digital experiences. The 2.2 update outlines new criteria for success and includes new examples of how people with disabilities use the web. This is a great opportunity for organizations to begin embracing inclusive design, the practice of building accessible experiences from the outset of designing a product or service. Testing is also crucial to ensure that digital experiences are not merely compliant, but working for all users. This requires getting input from real people with disabilities — for example, the user personas on the WCAG website — and having them test the product or service in a real-world environment. This will help ensure that all users can interact with digital products and experiences in accessible, meaningful ways.
Methodology: Survey respondents included more than 1,300 software testers, product engineers, legal professionals, software developers, QA and UX professionals.