Design Domination Podcast Episode #173: Key Findings From the WebAIM 2024 Screen Reader User Survey

The WebAIM 2024 Screen Reader User Survey provides insights we can use to perform better web accessibility testing and to understand more about screen reader users’ behavior and preferences.

Today I am going to talk about some of the findings from the latest WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey.

In case you don’t know, in 2008–2009, WebAIM started conducting surveys of screen reader users about a variety of topics—their screen readers and browsers of choice, how they get around a web page, their perceived state of accessibility on the web, issues they encounter on a web page and more.

The latest survey is number 10, which just came out in February 2024. The survey had a little over 1,500 valid responses.

These screen reader user surveys give us a lot of useful information. We can use these insights to perform better web accessibility testing and understand screen reader users better as well.

Of course, just keep in mind that this information is not representative of all screen users. This is just a sampling of about 1,500 or so.

Screen Reader Users

Almost half of the people in this latest survey were from North America, about 30% were from Europe, and the rest were from Asia, South America, Africa/Middle East, Australia and Oceania, and Central America and the Caribbean.

Most respondents were in the 21 to 40 or 41 to 60 age group.

That might be surprising to some people, especially if, when you think about disabilities, you associate them with only an older population.

Almost 90% of respondents reported using a screen reader because of a disability. That may surprise you too—that about 10% of screen reader users did not have a disability.

Not surprisingly, most respondents who said they used a screen reader were people with blindness (at almost 77%), and then people with low vision or other visual impairments (at almost 20%).

People with deafness or other hearing loss were next, at almost 7%, then people with cognitive or learning disabilities at a little over 5%, other disability at almost 5% and motor disabilities at a little over 2%.

Screen Reader Brands

The survey also asked about users’ preference of screen reader.

In the past, JAWS had the highest percentage and, for the most part, JAWS use has declined over the years as the percentage of NVDA users went up. This year, they were very close.

Almost 41% said they used JAWS and almost 38% said they used NVDA. Those are both Windows based screen readers. NVDA is free, JAWS is paid but has a free 40-minute mode.

VoiceOver, which is for Mac, didn’t even have 10%.

WebAIM did also ask which screen reader they commonly use. In those replies, NVDA was highest, at almost 66%, and JAWS at almost 61%. VoiceOver came in at almost 44%.

Other responses were really small percentages. Some of those were:

  • Narrator,
  • Orca,
  • ZoomText/Fusion,
  • Dolphin SuperNova,
  • ChromeVox.

Almost 72% of survey respondents said they use more than one screen reader, 43% use three of more, and 17% use four or more.

What’s interesting to note is that VoiceOver users also usually use another screen reader.

Screen Readers and Browsers

Respondents were also asked about choice of web browser with their screen reader.

Chrome dominated, at 52%. Microsoft Edge came in at 19% and Firefox at 16%. Safari, Internet Explorer and others came in much lower. But that’s not surprising.

The screen reader and browser combinations are especially important to note, because these guide any screen reader testing that you do.

JAWS with Chrome was the highest at almost 25%, and NVDA with Chrome came in at a little over 21%.

Not surprising, about 86% of screen reader users are using Windows. Only about 10% use Mac, and 3% use Linux.

A little over 91% of respondents use a screen reader on a mobile device.

Most of them (almost 71%) use Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Android use was almost 28%.

That’s interesting, because Windows is preferred on the computer, but for mobile, an Apple product is.

The most popular mobile screen reader was VoiceOver, at almost 71%, and TalkBack at almost 35%. Again, that’s interesting because VoiceOver was reported to be such a small stake on the computer.

Safari was the most popular primary mobile web browser, at a little over 58%. Chrome came in at almost 28%.

Feelings About Web Accessibility

When asked their feelings about the accessibility of website content from the prior year, almost half said they saw “no change,” close to 20% said “less accessible,” and about 35% said “more accessible.”

When asked if better assistive technology or more accessible websites would have a bigger impact on web accessibility, almost 86% said “more accessible websites.” Only 14% said “better assistive technology.”

Again, this is very interesting. This reinforces just how much accessibility on the web is needed!

Reporting Accessibility Barriers

When asked how often they contact a website owner to let them know they encountered an accessibility barrier, most people (44%) said “not very often,” about 25% said “somewhat often,” almost 22% said “never,” and only about 9% said “very often.”

This is notable because the “never” and “not very often” folks amount to the majority—almost two-thirds of respondents.

So, as I’ve said in the past, just because you or your client hasn’t gotten a complaint from someone, it doesn’t mean there are no issues. You cannot expect someone to take time out of their busy day to contact them. That is, if they can find the information on the website to do that.

Some people might just leave because they are pissed, because they feel like they’ve been alienated. So why should they bother? It seems like the business doesn’t care.

Navigating Content

Respondents were also asked about finding information on a long web page—what did they usually do first?

Not surprising, almost 72% said they used headings to navigate through the page content. I talked about the importance of headings for accessibility in episode 164.

The next most common response, at almost 14%, was searching the page.

Reading through the page came in at a little over 6%. Reading through the entire page can be really time consuming to find what you need.

About 5% said they use the hyperlinks on the page to navigate.

Almost 4% said they use the landmarks/regions of a page.

Importance of Heading Levels

Respondents were also asked how useful heading levels are when navigating a page by headings.

In case you don’t know, there are six levels of headings. Heading 1 is the topmost heading.

More than half (57%) said they find them “very useful,” and almost 32% said “somewhat useful.” That’s 89% of respondents.

Common Accessibility Issues on a Web Page

When asked what they thought were the most problematic items on a web page, CAPTCHA was by far the top complaint. No surprise there. They are notoriously inaccessible.

Interactive elements, such as menus and dialog windows; ambiguous hyperlinks and buttons; and unexpected screen changes came in pretty close to one another.

Lack of keyboard accessibility was also listed as an issue as were:

  • missing or improper Alt-text,
  • complex or difficult forms,
  • missing or improper headings,
  • too may links,
  • complex data tables,
  • inaccessible or missing search function,
  • no skip link (I talked about skip links in another episode as well).

So this provides helpful information about what to pay attention to when prioritizing the development or remediation of a website.

Get all of the WebAIM 2024 report findings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Design Domination Community

Hang out and get advice from designers of all levels in our welcoming community of graphic designers on Facebook.

Join the group