Accessibility awareness survey

Working in accessibility for quite a while now, and seeing how more and more big players in the tech industry reach out and embrace universal design, I started wondering how this massive push for accessibility has effected popular awareness of the issue. So I conducted a little accessibility awareness survey.

Using a web survey portal I prepared a short questionnaire to ask Polish Internet users about their understanding of accessibility. The survey ran for a few weeks in February and here are some of it’s findings.

In total there were 320 participants – 61% of which were female and 39% male.

The participants’ ages ranged from 13 to 85 years old (my apologies for the huge surplus of 20 to 29 year-old women – I guess they’re the group most in to filling out online surveys).

Over 40% of the participants claimed they knew what accessibility was.

Sounds like a great result, right?

But when asked to give a definition, most of the allegedly accessibility aware Internet users don’t seem to have much to say. After looking through their answers I found only about 1 in 9 to be anywhere near correct.

According to the most common misconceptions accessibility is either equivalent to website uptime or free software downloads (sic!). Quite a few participants also honestly admitted they’re unable to define the term, even though one question back they claimed to know it’s meaning.

The results were more optimistic for those working in Internet related branches of industry such as IT, e-commerce and telecommunications. Here, nearly 65% of the participants said they knew about accessibility and around 36% were able to give a fairly correct definition.

After providing the participants with a proper definition of accessibility I asked them to point out groups that could benefit from its implementation.

Over half (56%) of the respondents were unable to point to any group of beneficiaries. Another 11% claimed that accessibility benefits IT professionals such as programmers, designers or bloggers and 16% suggested completely irrelevant answers (e.g. companies, researchers or celebrities), which would suggest that these participants don’t exactly grasp what accessibility is despite being given a proper definition.

Just 11% claimed that everybody could benefit from accessibility. And, surprisingly, only 3% of the respondents mentioned the elderly and under 6% pointed to disabled users!

For Internet related industry professionals the results were slightly better. Even though over 50% were unable to point to any group of beneficiaries, yet at least more of them realized that accessibility aids elderly and disabled users. And no one suggested it is something you implement for the benefit of the developer.

Asking about how to make software accessible didn’t ring a bell with the general public either. Just under 6% of the participants were able to point to various assistive technologies as the solution. 75% declared they don’t know how to enforce accessibility and the remaining 19% proposed irrelevant solutions (e.g. website positioning or online marketing).

Unsurprisingly, when asked about implementing accessibility the Internet industry professionals managed to nail the right answers more often than users from other backgrounds, though with 65% still not being able to produce any answer, you wouldn’t exactly call it common knowledge…

Altogether, this little survey shows there’s still much to be done before accessibility awareness is common in the IT industry, let alone the general public.

Keep in mind that the figures presented in this post were based on a relatively small group (320 participants) and are probably not representative for the general population.

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