Organisations failing to meet digital accessibility standards

Applause has published the 2022 results of its third consecutive, annual global survey on digital accessibility to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022 (19.05.22).

The recently completed survey of nearly 1,800 respondents, included more than 750 respondents in EMEA. The survey examines how companies prioritise accessibility when developing their digital experiences, and what degree of emphasis they place on conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, a set of international standards for making web and mobile content more accessible to people with disabilities (PwD).

Key EMEA Findings

· Nearly 43% of respondents rated digital accessibility as a top priority, and 36% rated accessibility as important for their organisations. Fewer than 5% rated accessibility as either a low priority or not even on the organisation’s radar.

● More than 65% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their organisations than it was last year.

● Despite the tendency for organisations to prioritise accessibility as noted above, just under 30% said their organisation’s website meets WCAG 2.1 standards. Of that group who said they do meet standards, only 14% said they meet AAA, which is the highest level.

● When asked about common mistakes developers make from an accessibility perspective, the respondents’ top answers were “error alerts are not descriptive” (14.5%), “site and page structure are unclear” (14.4%) and “site is not usable by screen reader” (12.2%).

● 42% of respondents said they either have limited or no in-house expertise or resources to test for accessibility on an ongoing basis without external help. Nearly 30% said they have some expertise, but could use more.

While many organisations recognize that neglecting accessibility (A11y) can result in legal risks and lost business opportunities, full digital accessibility has additional benefits beyond risk mitigation. Back-end coding that supports accessible design can boost search engine optimisation, make automated testing easier, and generally improve the user experience for all potential customers, including PwD.

“Organisations certainly need to comply with accessibility standards from a legal perspective. However, from a broader business perspective, it’s essential for organisations to focus on developing and releasing products that are accessible and inclusive to the greatest number of current and future users. To achieve that, accessibility testing should be ongoing, and conducted with input from people with disabilities, so organisations can understand how their products will perform in real-world scenarios,” said Luke Damian, chief growth officer for Applause.

Respondents answered that the top three biggest motivators in achieving accessibility conformance were “improving usability for all end users” (50.5%), “building positive public perception” (21%) and “gaining and maintaining market share” (12%).

“As a best practice, companies should go beyond the minimum and prioritise inclusive design to create seamless experiences for all customers. Yet many organizations do not have the in-house expertise and resources they need. This is where organizations should engage the support of specialists to help ensure they are building high-quality, fully accessible digital experiences,” Damian said.

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