The Current State of Web Accessibility

WebAIM is a non-profit organization based at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Their website tells us: “In February 2019, WebAIM conducted an accessibility evaluation of the home pages for the top 1,000,000 web sites using the WAVE stand-alone API (with additional tools to collect site technology parameters). While this research focuses only on automatically detectable issues, the results paint a rather dismal picture of the current state of web accessibility for individuals with disabilities.” 

In August 2019, six months after the initial WebAIM Million analysis, they conducted a re-analysis of the accessibility of the home pages for the top 1,000,000 websites. This second report documents changes in accessibility over that 6 month time period. The same sampling techniques and methods were used during this update as were used for the original WebAIM Million. There is a lot to unpack here.

Web accessibility requires more than just accessibility tools; it requires human judgment. Human testing is always necessary because accessibility is about the human experience.

One very interesting finding is the WCAG 2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) failure rate based on automatically detectable errors was 98.0% in August compared to 97.8% in February. While slightly more pages had detectable WCAG failures, the number of errors per page decreased. 

Most of the WCAG failures are easy fixes, and establishing protocol for site maintenance and monitoring would substantially improve outcomes. The prevalence of pages with low contrast text, empty links, missing labels, and empty buttons increased slightly in 6 months, whereas the prevalence of pages with missing alternative text and missing document language decreased slightly. Simply addressing these few types of issues would have a significant positive impact on web accessibility.

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