Unpacking the Web Accessibility Survey Results

In this episode of Modern Marketing Messages, we discuss the results of the recent Americaneagle.com-sponsored Web Accessibility Survey. Americaneagle.com’s accessibility experts, Nick Goodrum and Norbert Rum, are active participants within digital accessibility communities, and took it upon themselves to learn more from and amplify the voices of the people in which they serve.

Visit the Web Accessibility Survey website to learn more.


What is the Web Accessibility Survey?

The survey was initiated in response to diverse user feedback from the online community, particularly those using the subreddit r/blind. It aimed to capture a broad spectrum of experiences, addressing the need for more nuanced data that reflects the varied ways people interact with web technologies and assistive tools. This initiative was seen as a way to better understand user needs and improve web accessibility standards, moving beyond just screen reader users or specific disability types. The survey included 84 questions spread across different sections to comprehensively address the use of assistive technologies and individual experiences, irrespective of whether respondents identified as having a disability.

To gain more background information on the survey, check out the following Modern Marketing Messages episodes: Breaking Down Barriers: Key Findings from our Accessibility Survey – Part I and Part II.

How was the Web Accessibility Survey Disseminated?

Norb explained that the survey was primarily promoted within various Reddit communities related to disabilities, such as those for cerebral palsy and autism, as well as general disability communities. To refine the survey's questions and make them more effective and comprehensible, they sought feedback from these communities before finalizing the survey.

Norb and his team were cautious in their approach, acknowledging the commonality of survey fatigue among community members due to frequent requests for participation, often from students or researchers. To mitigate this, they were transparent about the survey's purpose and emphasized its community benefit rather than personal academic gains.

How Many People Responded to the Web Accessibility Survey?

The survey received 1,284 responses, although many participants did not complete the survey, likely due to its length or interruption by other tasks. Despite these challenges, the survey was aimed at benefiting the entire community by enhancing, understanding, and improving accessibility based on comprehensive, publicly available data.

Key Findings from the Web Accessibility Survey

One significant observation was the use of labels and how some respondents preferred not to be labeled as "disabled" even though they use accessibility tools. This highlights a broader perspective on assistive technology usage, revealing that many people use such tools without necessarily identifying with a disability.

Nick used the example of glasses as a commonplace form of assistive technology to illustrate that many everyday enhancements are forms of accessibility aids, suggesting a need to normalize and integrate accessibility more broadly rather than treating it as a special requirement only for a few.

The conversation also touched on technical aspects, such as the use of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) labels in web development to improve accessibility. However, there were challenges noted with visibility and interaction, especially regarding how assistive technologies like screen readers interact with web elements, which may not be fully optimized for non-keyboard navigation methods like mouse use.

Americaneagle.com’s accessibility experts underscored the complexity and nuances of web accessibility, the varied ways people use assistive technologies, and the ongoing need to enhance and normalize these tools in everyday digital interactions to make them as seamless and inclusive as possible.

Surprise Discoveries from Analyzing the Survey Results

When analyzing the results of the survey, there were a few surprise discoveries – specifically regarding the use of overlays on websites. Overlays are tools intended to enhance website accessibility by modifying visual and interactive elements such as font sizes and color contrasts. However, the survey revealed that many users are either unaware of the specific overlays used or find them problematic.

Some of the key findings include:

  1. Unfamiliarity and blocking: Over 50% of respondents did not know the names of the overlays they encountered. Many users actively block these overlays using ad blockers, which sometimes automatically block accessibility overlays as well.
  2. Negative impact: A significant portion of users reported that overlays often worsen their browsing experience. For example, screen reader users experienced issues like "double talk," where the screen reader and the overlay both announce text simultaneously, leading to confusion and impaired usability.
  3. Technical problems: Overlays have been found to cause technical issues such as browser and application crashes, and in some cases, slow down the website significantly, hindering rather than helping accessibility.
  4. Misguided remediation: There is skepticism about overlays that claim to automatically remediate accessibility issues using AI or similar technologies. These can sometimes misinterpret needs or create new barriers, indicating a gap between the intention of these tools and their actual effectiveness.
  5. Positive feedback: Despite these issues, some users appreciate certain features offered by overlays, such as reading lines that help keep track of text, indicating that not all overlay features are viewed negatively.

Overall, while overlays aim to enhance accessibility, the actual impact varies widely, with significant negative feedback indicating a need for more thoughtful implementation and perhaps a greater reliance on fundamental, built-in accessibility solutions rather than add-on tools.

Do the Web Accessibility Survey Results Reflect the Current Sentiment of the Community?

Both Nick and Norb agree that the survey accurately reflects the current state of web accessibility, capturing both the limitations and areas for effective enhancement.

Norb, who is deeply embedded in the accessibility community, affirms that the survey outcomes resonate with the fluctuations and trends he observes in web accessibility. Meanwhile, Nick highlights the data's role in validating certain unexpected findings, such as the prevalence of different screen readers like NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access, a screen reader for Microsoft) over JAWS (Job Access With Speech, a screen reader program for Microsoft), contrary to prior assumptions predominantly reflected in other surveys, such as WebAIM's.

Furthermore, the experts touch on the broader outreach and improved accuracy in recent surveys, facilitated by including diverse communities like Reddit, which helped align results with actual user experiences. They also discuss the feedback from the community, acknowledging both the positive and negative comments that drive continuous improvement and deeper inquiry into various assistive technologies.

The survey acknowledges the complexity of addressing web accessibility, emphasizing the diversity of user needs and the importance of avoiding assumptions about how people interact with technology, aiming for a more inclusive web environment.

Nick Goodrum discusses importance of community feedback in online marketing surveys on Modern Marketing Messages podcast

How Has the Survey Impacted the Work at Americaneagle.com?

Being involved in the survey from start to finish has certainly had an impact on Americaneagle.com’s accessibility experts. Nick explains that the survey has primarily served as an educational tool, enabling them to provide concrete data to clients about web accessibility. This evidence-based approach helps in discussing accessibility needs and integrating them into their business processes more effectively.

Furthermore, the survey, initially a side project, gained substantial support through sponsorship, which helped cover associated costs like survey tools and hosting. This backing allowed them to dedicate more resources to the project, enhancing its scope and depth. The survey has not only influenced their approach to client work by providing valuable data but also emphasized the importance of accessibility in Americaneagle.com’s ethos and service offerings.

What’s Next for the Web Accessibility Survey?

Nick explains the potential future directions following the web accessibility survey. He emphasizes that due to survey fatigue and the minimal annual changes in sentiment, the survey is not intended to be conducted yearly. Instead, the focus is on utilizing the current data to educate and inform, and preparing more thoroughly for future surveys.

Nick acknowledges the survey's current geographic limitation, primarily capturing data from North America and Europe, and expresses an interest in expanding its reach by including more languages like Portuguese and Spanish. This expansion is seen as a way to make the survey more globally inclusive.

Additionally, he highlights some technical and logistical challenges encountered during the survey process. These include issues with survey tools that were not fully accessible to all users, particularly those using screen readers, and the need to adjust question formats from radio buttons to checkboxes to accommodate technical constraints.

Norbert Rum discusses long-term community benefits from accessible survey data on Modern Marketing Messages podcast

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Brought to you by Americaneagle.com, a digital marketing and web design company, Modern Marketing Messages discusses the latest and greatest in both online and offline marketing tactics, strategies, and trends. We take a deep dive into anything and everything marketing, speaking to the best and brightest minds in technology and marketing. Episodes will cover different areas of focus, from advanced SEO to paid search, personalization to influencer marketing, and everything in between.

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About Author

Taylor Karg
Taylor Karg is Americaneagle.com’s Marketing Content Writer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Over the years, she’s gained experience writing for B2B brands across a variety of industries. Taylor prides herself on her ability to tell a story – and having fun while doing it. When not interviewing or writing, Taylor can be found eating tacos and watching the latest Netflix, Hulu or HBO series.

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