The State of Digital Accessibility in 2024
June 25, 2024

Rob Mason

Digital transformation continues to change the way people and organizations connect and interact, making it simpler and easier to access information, place an order, communicate with a colleague, and so on. That said, there are concerns around making digital experiences inclusive and accessible for all users. With an estimated 1.3 billion people globally experiencing a disability, it's critical to make sure everyone can access and leverage digital experiences, apps, and services.

My organization, Applause, recently conducted its fourth annual Accessibility and Inclusive Design Survey, which surveyed more than 3,500 software testers, product engineers, software developers, QA and UX professionals, and legal professionals, globally. The survey examined to what extent companies are prioritizing accessibility when developing digital experiences, as well as their levels of expertise and the maturity of their accessibility efforts.

Prioritizing Accessibility and Inclusive Design

The survey found that companies are prioritizing accessibility and inclusive design more than ever before. Specifically:

■ 44% of respondents strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority than it was last year (up from 27% in 2023).

■ 77% of respondents said there is a specific group or person at their organization responsible for ensuring that products are accessible.

Accessibility Expertise on the Rise

The survey also found that developers are gaining expertise when it comes to accessibility, and are testing for accessibility earlier in the design process, leveraging inclusive design principles.

■ 26% of respondents described their digital accessibility understanding as advanced (up from 21% in 2023).

■ 87% of respondents said their accessibility expert or team uses inclusive design principles.

■ 79% of respondents said they build accessibility into design plans in the early stages of development.

Issues with Investments & Resources

The survey highlighted an unfortunate disconnect between the goal of making accessibility a priority and the investment and resources required to make this a reality.

■ Only 19% of respondents said they have adequate internal resources for accessibility testing on an ongoing basis.

■ 26% of respondents said they had limited resources for inclusive design and accessibility, compared to 23% last year.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

As part of the survey, respondents were asked about their organization's level of conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2, which is a set of international standards for making digital content accessible for people with disabilities.

■ 42% of respondents said their company meets WCAG 2.2 standards, up from 35% who met WCAG 2.1 in 2023.

■ Only 32% of respondents were on schedule to comply with the global-reachingEU Accessibility Act.

Automation and AI for Accessibility

As AI and automation tools grow more popular, they are also being used to test for accessibility.

■ 50% of respondents are using an automated accessibility tool for identifying issues, up from 40% in 2023.

■ 60% of respondents said AI will provide a significant additive to accessibility testing in the next two years.

Progress Still To Be Made

It is promising to see that accessibility and inclusive design are continuing to become more and more of a priority when it comes to digital apps and experiences. That said, the right resources and investments are clearly still needed to help uplevel digital accessibility globally. New technology leveraging AI and automation can help, but should be used in addition to a team with accessibility knowledge, and not as a replacement. As applications and services incorporate inclusive design and become more accessible, they make these digital experiences better for everyone, including people with disabilities.

Rob Mason is CTO of Applause
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