Companies say digital accessibility is more important than it was last year, yet standards aren’t up to scratch, finds a survey by Applause, a leader in testing and digital quality.
The Applause 2022 Accessibility Survey analyses how firms prioritise accessibility in their digital offerings. This includes whether they’re conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which are international standards for making web and mobile content accessible to people with disabilities.
Over 65% of 1,800 respondents, which included over 750 respondents from the EMEA region, either agreed or strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their organisations than last year, yet only 30% said their websites meet WCAG 2.1 standards. Of those that do meet standards, just 14% said they meet AAA, the highest level.
Respondents were asked about the common accessibility mistakes developers make and the top answers were “error alerts are not descriptive” (14.5%), “site and page structure are unclear” (14.4%) and “site is not usable by screen reader” (12.2%).
Close to half (42%) of respondents said they either have limited or no in-house expertise or resources to test for accessibility regularly without external help. A further 30% said they have some expertise, but could use more.
Despite poor implementation, respondents seem to understand the key motivators and perks behind improving digital accessibility; 50.5% said it improves usability for all end-users while 21% said it helps build a positive public image for businesses, and 12% said it helps gain and maintain a market share.
Applause shared its own reasons for promoting digital accessibility; which includes avoiding legal risks and lost business opportunities, but it has other positives beyond risk negation. Back-end coding that supports accessible design, they say, can boost search engine optimisation (SEO) and makes automated testing easier, and improves the user experience for all customers, including people with disabilities.
Applause’s findings aren’t only concerning for consumers and employees with disabilities, the gap between companies’ intentions about supporting digital accessibility and what they’re actually implementing, which is very shallow, shows there’s a culture of inaction around digital accessibility, where simply talking about accessibility won’t ensure that disabled users can engage with their businesses inclusively.
Luke Damian, Chief Growth Officer at 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.
“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.”
In this article, you learned that:
- Many firms believe that digital accessibility is a priority this year, yet a significant amount aren’t conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
- Common accessibility mistakes developers make include “error alerts are not descriptive” (14.5%) and “site and page structure are unclear” (14.4%).
- Accessible design can boost search engine optimisation (SEO) and makes automated testing easier.