The 2023 WebAIM Million report shows web accessibility still has a long way to go
Accessibility Team Lead
2 minute read
Last week WebAIM published its Million Report for the fifth consecutive year. The report offers a comprehensive (and revealing!) look at the current state of web accessibility and insights into barriers to access for individuals with disabilities navigating the web. It also shows why web accessibility still has a long way to go.
Last week WebAIM published its Million Report for the fifth consecutive year. The report, which covers the top million home pages on the internet is an accessibility evaluation, offering a comprehensive (and revealing!) look at the current state of web accessibility and insights into barriers to access for individuals with disabilities navigating the web.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), define the web’s social value in enabling human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge. A web that meets this goal “is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability” (WCAG). However, when digital products and services are poorly designed, they present barriers which can exclude people from using the web.
In our work we always reiterate that automated tools are always inherently limited, and testing with real users is the best way to identify barriers to access and ensure products and services are properly designed for the people using them. However, the report still does an excellent job of identifying some important wider trends and mapping year-on-year shifts. The main headline is that a massive 96.3% of home pages presented WCAG 2 failures. This represents a marginal improvement on previous years but still indicates that web accessibility has a very long way to go.
Across the one million home pages, 49,991,225 distinct accessibility errors were detected—an average of 50.0 errors per page. Something we also hear a lot from organisations who have run automated accessibility testing on their sites is “we are below the average”. But this average number of errors per page indicates that even where this might be the case, that average still represents a significantly high rate of issues, with huge room for improvement.
Another notable development is the use of ARIA code on pages, with 77,437,071 ARIA attributes detected, an average of 77 per page. This represents an increase of 29% in just one year, almost quadruple the number detected in 2019’s survey!
There are also some noteworthy trends across specific sectors, with government, governance, law, science and education among the areas showing a more positive improvement in overall accessibility. However, even among these better-ranking sectors, there are still a substantial number of errors, and plenty more we must do to improve the picture.
Elsewhere, travel, news and eCommerce were among the more poorly scoring sectors. ECommerce is of particular significance with shopping sites being highly subject to accessibility complaints and lawsuits. Organisations in these sectors should also be aware that the European Accessibility Act, which comes into effect in 2025 will enshrine the legal requirement for businesses in the European Union to ensure their products and services are accessible. The act covers a variety of products and services including eCommerce, banking and online travel sites.
The report also highlights the impact of technologies such as Content Management Systems (CMS), with over 1200 types of technologies detected across the pages analysed. There was a wide divergence in the impact of various CMS, but some huge systems such as WordPress were found to be among the worst performing.
The accessibility of the systems that power the web can present a challenge. Our team worked to help Funka to assess the features of a number of CMS technologies. We've also been active members of the Umbraco accessibility community where our work has included conducting an audit and helping address barriers to access in the back office.
Over the past year, and based on the 2022 WebAIM report, my colleague Molly Watt and I have been touring a talk titled ‘Fix the Six’. The talk covers the top six most found accessibility issues, and ways organisations can take immediate steps to begin addressing them. It’s something we plan to cover again around Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and the wider point that underpins the talk is that every accessibility journey must start somewhere.
The top six issues in this year’s report are:
- Low contrast text 83.6%
- Missing alternative text for images 58.2%
- Empty links 50.1%
- Missing form input labels 45.9%
- Empty buttons 27.5%
- Missing document language 18.6%
Even just a commitment to fixing these six issues puts an organisation on a path to better products and services and can represent the start of a wider move towards greater accessibility. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t perfect at once, as this brilliant blog post from my colleague Lisa Matthews explains. More important is that organisations are reflective about areas for improvement and make those first steps with a view to continuing to learn and improve.
The benefits of placing accessibility in focus are manyfold for businesses. Not just for compliance reasons (though accessibility is a legal requirement in many cases). And not just because accessible products and services will reach a greater audience, which does make plenty of business sense. But ultimately, because ethically it’s just the right thing to do.
So, let’s use this most recent WebAIM review to kickstart the important conversations about how we can all do our part to raise awareness and push for better accessibility to realise the web’s full potential for everyone.
If you’d like to speak to us about accessibility, training for your team or having us deliver a talk for your organisation, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org