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The scope of the problem

WebAIM, a well-respected accessibility think tank, recently conducted a study of the top one million websites to see what issues they contained. Sadly, the news is not encouraging. The study, which was initially completed in February 20191 and then revised in August 20192, found that 98% of the sites studied had accessibility problems. That’s an increase from the 97.8% that were found to have issues in the February review.

Each website was evaluated using an automated auditing tool to assess its accessibility level. That means 98% of sites didn’t even meet the minimum standard that the automated tool tested for during the study. Unfortunately, additional problems that weren’t tested for by the tool are very likely to exist.

With that in mind, it is speculated that upwards of 99% of the top websites might pose obstacles for disabled users. The unfortunate conclusion? We still have a long way to go before we build a web that works for everyone.

The most common issues

For a website to be accessible, it must work for a wide variety of disabilities and incorporate many functionalities to assist users. While there are likely many more undiscovered problems, the study found that the following few appeared very often (listed below in no particular order).

  1. Inadequate contrast
  2. Images that lack quality alt text
  3. Generic links detected
  4. Empty buttons detected
  5. Missing form labels

Barriers that don’t need to exist

Oddly enough, all of these issues are relatively simple to correct. For example, if you replace “click here” with more meaningful link text, then a user that relies on screen readers and other assistive tech will have better information about what action they are supposed to take. The same goes for adding descriptive text to buttons. As for the color contrast, the study found that over 85% of the sites reviewed did not have adequate contrast for users with low vision. That means that the site is basically unreadable for those people.

Many of these issues, including low contrast, can be easily remedied simply by installing the UserWay widget. The widget gives site visitors the option to enhance keyboard navigation, fix color contrast and even control the font choice, text size, spacing, and more. All of that can happen without needing to change the code or disrupting the site’s original design. With an increase in awareness and more widespread adoption of innovative assistants like the UserWay widget, we certainly hope that WebAIM’s next study will yield more encouraging results.