Business & Society

Web Accessibility Research: Good News, Bad News

By JoLynne Lyon |

The latest WebAIM Million report is out — and so are some key facts about web accessibility, in higher education and out in the wild.

The good news is that higher education has made significant strides in web accessibility over the past 10 years, as is documented in award-winning research. The bad news: in the six years that WebAIM has conducted its WebAIM Million reports, the world’s top 1 million websites have remained riddled with errors.

WebAIM is part of the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice. Both WebAIM and IDRPP are in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University.

Researchers discussed accessibility in both higher education and the world at large during the annual CSUN (California State University — Northridge) Assistive Technology Conference at Anaheim, California in March.

Web Accessibility in Higher Eductation

Higher education has made huge steps in the field of web accessibility, according to research conducted by a team that included Jared Smith, WebAIM’s director.

The research team marked several data points from 2012 to 2022 and saw significant — even dramatic — improvement in all of them.

Most notably, 3 percent of pages had page regions in 2012, versus 93 percent in 2022, according to study lead Terrill Thompson of the University of Washington. The change is significant because it helps screen reader users jump easily between the different parts of a webpage.

Thompson, Smith and WebAIM’s Rob Carr all presented at the CSUN conference. Smith pointed out that higher education still has accessibility problems.

“It’s still 20 errors on average in higher ed,” Smith said. “But it’s a lot better than the 50 or so that we find on homepages generally.”

“Public higher education institutions have been looking at these more broadly, more maturely than some of the groups that we encounter and test for every day,” said Carr, WebAIM’s strategic accessibility coordinator.

The team’s research, “Predictors of Postsecondary Web Accessibility, 2012 to 2022,” was submitted to CSUN’s Journal on Technology & Persons with Disabilities, vol. 12. It received the Dr. Arthur Karshmer Award for Assistive Technology Research. This recognition goes to the authors of the best science/research journal submission to the CSUN Assistive Technology conference.

Web Accessibility Around the World

The WebAIM Million is an annual report. This year’s study, released this month, found an average of 56.8 errors per homepage in its analysis of the world’s top million websites. That’s even more than the 50 errors detected in 2023.

In addition, the homepages surveyed in the WebAIM Million have become increasingly more complex. And many of the perennial problems with websites have continued: among them are low-contrast text, missing alternative text for images, and missing form labels.

For in-depth discussion of the higher education research, watch the CSUN presentation featuring Thompson, Smith and Carr. For a detailed look at the WebAIM Million, read the report.

WRITER

JoLynne Lyon
Public Relations Specialist
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice
435-797-7412
jolynne.lyon@usu.edu

CONTACT

Jared Smith
Director, WebAIM
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice
435-797-7024
j.smith@usu.edu


TOPICS

Research 885stories Disabilities 75stories IDRPP 37stories Accessibility 18stories

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