Category: stats

About the HTML Epidemic, WebAIM “Million” Report, and Teach Access

It’s been about a dozen years since I first realized that there is a world-wide HTML epidemic. Although I speak about the importance of semantic markup and tweet about it often, I wish I’d written specifically about it before. Thankfully others have such as Bruce Lawson, Manuel Matuzovic, and Laura Kalbag.

Web developers overwhelmingly fail when it comes to implementing semantic HTML, whether they actually know how to or not. There are many negative ramifications of this in the areas of device interoperability, reader modes, converting to PDF and EPUB formats, SEO, graceful degradation, code consistency/maintenance, and demonstrating professionalism. But particularly web accessibility.

WebAIM Million

Recently, WebAIM published a report analyzing the accessibility of the top one million website homepages in the world, called The WebAIM Million. This is striking empirical data on how poor accessibility is and how poor the quality of HTML is on the Web. For example, here are some figures from the study.

  • There was an average of 59.6 [accessibility] errors per page.
  • 97.8% of home pages had detectable WCAG 2 failures.
  • 5 of the top 6 issues were due to solely to improper HTML (missing alternative text for images, empty links, missing form input labels, missing document language, empty buttons).
  • 2,099,665 layout tables were detected compared to only 113,737 data tables (note that tables are for data, not layout).
  • On average, home pages had 36 distinct instances of text with insufficient contrast.

This is obviously bad. And, it’s important to point out that the study was done using an automated tool, which is capable of detecting only a portion of actual accessibility issues/errors. I estimate that the amount of issues would at least double or even triple if full audits were done.

Also, as a result of web developers’ poor HTML implementation, accessibility consultants are increasingly required to teach HTML to web developers rather than address “actual” accessibility issues.

illustration of the letters HTML written on a chalkboard with confused cartoon-like character pointing to it

Resolving the HTML Epidemic

This is obviously a huge problem that must be addressed. What can we do to help resolve this HTML epidemic?

Digital accessibility must be considered when hiring and training employees. Accessibility must be considered when creating a web-based product. Accessibility must be a part of ongoing training for web professionals. Accessibility needs to be taught in education.

An organization called Teach Access (@teachaccess) is helping in some of these areas. Teach Access is a group of tech companies (including Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Microsoft) which is preparing designers, engineers and researchers to think and build inclusively. They have several initiatives including Faculty Grants and a web accessibility tutorial. And another way to fight the good fight for HTML semantics and accessibility is to become a member of Teach Access.

Teach Access is in partnership with PEAT (Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology) which is a program funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

Teach Access logo

If you’re involved in education, please reach out to teachers and professors about Teach Access and about digital accessibility in general. HTML and web design are often part of computer science, software engineering, and mass media, advertising, and news programs. You can also offer to give a guest lecture.

If you have further ideas on how to improve the use of HTML semantics (and web accessibility), please leave in a comment on this post.

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Screen Reader User Survey 7 Results from WebAIM

In December 2017, results of Screen Reader User Survey #7 by WebAIM were released. The survey was conducted in October and had 1,792 valid responses. The survey had less respondents than the previous survey, but had better world-wide representation.

Highlights:

  • Primary screen reader usage: JAWS 46.6%; NVDA 31.9%; VoiceOver 11.7%.
  • CAPTCHA remains the most problematic item.
  • The second most problematic item is now “Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly”. This is surely due to complex designs and SPAs/JS frameworks.
  • Web accessibility basics (keyboard access, alt text, forms, headings, data tables) are still in top 10 of most problematic.
  • When asked if more accessible web sites or better assistive technology would have a bigger impact on accessibility, 85.3% responded more accessible web sites.
  • Sadly, frequent use of landmarks and regions dropped to 30.5%. WebAIM states that this may be “due to infrequent or improper usage of landmarks/regions in pages”.
  • 33.3% reported using Braille output with a screen reader.
  • 41.4% reported using an external keyboard with a mobile device and screen reader.

I highly recommend you also read WebAIM’s summary of Screen Reader User Survey.

More:

WebAIM web accessibility in mind

Five Most Common Accessibility Errors

In the blog post Web Accessibility – The Power of Five, E-Access Bulletin Live reports on a web accessibility study completed by the Society of IT Management (Socitm). The study cites the five most common web accessibility errors, which reportedly make up 76% of all website accessibility failures.

  1. no alternative text for images
  2. inappropriate use of JavaScript
  3. errors in simple data tables
  4. errors in complex data tables
  5. use of features with a lack of accessible alternatives

Most web design companies ignore disabled people

In a report from the UK, where web accessibility is more widely practiced than in most other countries, 75% of Local web design companies ignore disabled people. Unfortunately, I’m sure that percentage is much higher here in the United States, where accessible web sites are still limited to not much more than some government and education sites.

UN Audit of Web Accessibility

The United Nations commissioned a report on web accessibility with very disappointing results. Only 3 home pages from 100 web sites achieved Single-A accessibility from the WCAG 1.0 guidelines (the lowest level of web accessibility compliance). The sites were chosen from 20 countries in 5 categories (Travel, Finance, Media, Politics, and Retail).

Also, here’s a blog post about the issue along with a lot of discussion at 456 Berea St: 97% of websites are still inaccessible.