Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Hat-tip to ATF member Jared Smith:

WebAIM recently conducted a survey of preferences of screen reader users. With over 1100 responses, the results of this survey provide much useful information about screen reader user demographics and preferences. Some of the results were quite surprising. This comprehensive survey of screen reader user preferences provides much needed insight into this diverse group of screen reader users.

Here are a few findings:

  • The most common screen readers used are JAWS (74%), Window-Eyes (23%), NVDA (8%), and VoiceOver (6%).
  • 75% of screen reader users upgrade to the newest version within one year.
  • 12% of respondents use a screen reader on a mobile phone.
  • 76% of users always or often navigating by headings.
  • 36% never or seldom use text-only versions of web pages.
  • 72% of screen reader users reported that Flash is very or somewhat difficult.

There is much, much more to be learned about this diverse group of screen reader users at the survey results page.

It’s great to see some actual data and feedback from real screenreader users, instead of always hearing anecdotal evidence and generalised assumptions from designers and developers. As the disclaimer notes, the actual user sample was not controlled, some of the questions may have been too technical, and some responses may have been tainted by previous experiences with badly-coded and inaccessible sites.

Perhaps the most significant conclusion we can make from these survey results is that there is no typical screen reader user.

One thing I’d like to see in any future survey would be actual testcases that respondents are asked to evaluate, which may give more representative results. In the meantime though I’d like to thank the WebAIM team for their effort and look forward to the more in-depth analysis of the data gathered from this survey.

Polish Translation

Your Replies

#1 On January 31st, 2009 2:39 pm Keith replied:

When I saw the title, I thought it was about a web-based UI to AIM. LOL!

Most of this data is encouraging. I wonder how hard it would be to uninstall Flash (I do so easily, but I’m sighted).

It would be nice to know how many screenreaders implement the HTML 4 accessibility features and if they’re actually good outside of theory or if they’ve had to invent their own accessibility features.

#2 On February 3rd, 2009 2:23 am Wait till I come! » Blog Archive » TTMMHTM: Screen Readers, Superheroes and a broken DOM replied:

[...] WaSP reporting on the findings or WebAim’s Screen Reader Survey [...]

#3 On February 3rd, 2009 5:43 am Ryan replied:

Great information, and it will enable those web designers highly focus on accessibility to create even better experience for screen reader users.

Sad to see Flash still breaks accessibility…

#4 On February 3rd, 2009 12:11 pm John replied:

Thanks for posting the results of the survey of screen reader preferences…….we hope this information will help to improve new versions of the screen reader.

#5 On February 4th, 2009 5:26 am bruce replied:

I’m not sure that Flash breaks accessibility so much as most Flash developers break accessibility.

We’ve got over the idea that HTML is a visual medium, so standards-aware designers know how to markup for semantics, which can then be extracted by assistive technology.

But I’d suggest that most Flash developers still see it as a visual medium.

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