In January 2017 Dig Inclusion and Visualise training and consultancy launched a survey to understand the experiences people with disabilities have with digital content to determine how satisfied they are with digital accessibility provided by organisations.
The survey had a total of 18 questions and was open for 10 weeks. We had 27 respondents complete the survey, so the responses are just a snapshot of the 10 million people with disabilities in the UK. Therefore, we won’t allude to any firm set conclusions, but we do believe the answers given can provide insight into the current levels of satisfaction.
Respondents had a range of disabilities including low vision, blindness, hearing disabilities, physical disabilities and dyslexia.
The last question of our survey was, ‘What activities do you use the internet for?’ Unsurprisingly on this multiple choice question, the answers were varied.
- 59% Pay bills
- 81% Manage bank accounts
- 93% Purchase a new item
- 52% Set up a new service
- 33% Check the physical accessibility facilities a company has on site
- 81% Get contact details
- 30% Play games
- 67% Socialise
- 74% Stream music or videos
This shows that people with disabilities use the internet for exactly the same reasons everyone else does. In the UK there is a focus on Government, local authorities and financial organisations to be accessible, but the Equality Act applies to everyone and these survey results show that every digital provider has customers who may have a disability.
Consumption of digital media
85% of our respondents used some form of assistive technology. These include text-to-speech software, desktop screen readers, VoiceOver and TalkBack on mobiles, ergonomic mouse, Braille displays, and wireless microphones.
When asked what devices people use to browse the Internet (multiple choice question), over 62% of respondents said they use multiple devices:
- 25% use a tablet
- 48% use smart mobile phones
- 59% use desktop/laptop computers.
Tablet and smart mobile phone usage totals 73%.
When combined with the research completed by Statcounter in October 2016 (who track internet usage across 2.5 million websites), 51.3% of pages were loaded on mobile devices, which was the first time that mobile usage surpassed desktop and laptop computers. It’s clear that organisations need to ensure their content works across multiple platforms for their customers more than ever. They must take into account that web accessibility no longer applies to just desktop websites. A website must work on a desktop, mobile device and where necessary in an app. 65% of respondents would rather use an app on a mobile device than a responsive website.
Digital content across all platforms must be accessible for an inclusive end-to-end process for all customers. Mobile accessibility is not yet comprehensively covered in WCAG 2.0 guidelines. It is currently advisable to use the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines together with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. It is hoped that the new WCAG 2.1 guidelines will address this gap in the standards by referring to smart and touchscreen devices.
Disappointingly, 92% of respondents have come across websites that are not accessible to them, and whilst 62% did provide feedback to the company, the experience was very negative on the whole. 81% were not satisfied by the responses they received from the companies they approached.
Feedback was supplied in a range of formats:
- 72% used email
- 50% used social media
- 27% used phone calls
- 22% used online chat
- 5% wrote a letter
Many times the customer did not get a reply or the company did not understand the problem. Another common theme was that the problem would be looked into “sometime in the next year.” One respondent had signed up for an online course that was inaccessible. While they got a refund on the course, it prevented them from an education opportunity and a lost sale for the business.
Experiences of poor accessibility mean that customers are unable to engage with the business and so will not spend their money. Often, accessibility complaints aren’t reaching the right people within the organisation to make the changes necessary. Worse, complaints are sometimes seen as not important enough, meaning that businesses are not valuing disabled people as customers.
What influences people to try a new website? None of the respondents said it was due to a recommendation from a disabled group or person, or because a service was accredited as accessible. Instead, respondents tended to try a new website through necessity, wanting the product or service from the company.
When providing advice to companies wishing to improve the accessibility of their website, we encourage them to make use of an accessibility statement, which should include the accessibility guidelines the company is working to, any areas of the site that are known to currently have accessibility issues, and a direct point of contact for customers to provide feedback. Our survey found that over 60% of people do not read the accessibility statements.
We believe that accessibility statements are a valuable tool for businesses to show that they are committed to improving accessibility, stating the work they are doing, and are approachable, actively seek feedback from their customers. In future, we plan to further investigate why accessibility statements are underused by both businesses and customers.
Good and bad examples of websites
We asked people for their opinion on websites that they consider as either a good or bad example of accessibility. We will be sharing this report privately with those organisations who were named as having poor accessible websites, but want to provide credit to those that were singled out as being good. Four websites were highlighted as being good for accessibility:
As we often work with PDF accessibility, we wanted to gauge the interest users have in using an accessible PDF over traditional alternative formats like large print, Braille or audio. From those who responded:
- 20% did not require an alternative format at all
- 65% would prefer an accessible PDF
- 15% would not prefer an accessible PDF
We believe this is one area that organisations can cost effectively provide accessible information. Where documents or leaflets need to be produced, there appears to be a clear demand for PDFs. Using accessible PDFs would reduce the time it takes to provide the information to a customer digitally, as it can be emailed or instantly downloaded rather than being printed on demand and posted. Also, an accessible PDF has just the one-off cost as opposed to the production and printing required for traditional alternative formats.
All survey questions asked
- What is your disability?
- Do you use assistive technology?
- What assistive technology do you use?
- What devices do you use to browse the internet? (Multiple choice)
- Do you check to see if a company has an app?
- Would you rather use an app than a website when on a mobile device?
- Have you come across a website that is inaccessible to you?
- Have you provided feedback to the company?
- How did you provide feedback? (Multiple choice)
- What was their response?
- Were you satisfied with their response?
- If you have ever requested an alternative format like large print, braille or audio would you prefer to have an accessible downloadable document?
- Have you come across a good accessible website?
- What influences your decision to try a new website?
- In your opinion which companies provide you with the most accessible website?
- In your opinion which companies provide you with the least accessible website?
- Do you read accessibility statements?
- What activities do you use the internet for? (Multiple choice)