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I am shocked by what is in the newly released report on web accessibility from WebAIM And that, my friends, is called sarcasm because unfortunately, I expected the results to be this bad. First of all, maybe I should tell you who WebAIM is if you don’t already know. They are a nonprofit organization full of accessible design superheroes whose sole mission is to make the Internet more accessible to neurodivergent and physiodivergents.

That’s a new word. I just made it up. Physiodivergent is way better then than like people living with disabilities anyway. They have all kinds of educational resources, like tools and things about technical skills and leadership strategies to help people self educate and then go forth and make the Internet more better. So what is this web accessibility report?

It is an evaluation of the home pages of the top 1 million websites. Unfortunately, there isn’t a report that includes, like all of the digital medias like PDFs and presentations and that kind of stuff. But it’s safe to assume that if websites are the baseline, then all other digital media is on average worse than the websites are.

What kind of websites does WebAIM pull onto this list?

They make a list of the top 1 million home pages and they pull it from a couple of different lists, like the Majestic Millions List, the Alexa Top 1 million websites list, and the Dom Cop Top 1 million domains. If you’re really interested in checking out those lists, I’ll put links in the description so you can go check it out for yourself.

But I’m not going to get into those. That’s just where the data is coming from. So what does this data tell us and why am I not surprised? Here’s a fun fact in that those 1 million home pages there were 49,991,225 accessibility errors on those pages, and that’s an average of 50 accessibility errors per home page. But I’m going to go over like five main areas.

Web Page Complexity

Over the past 12 months, websites have gotten even more complex than they were a year ago. The home pages on the 1 million home page list had over 1 billion page elements. So in 2022, there was an average of 955 elements a page. And as of February 2023, there is an average of like 1053 elements per page, which is about a 10% increase.

line chart showing the increase in website complexity from 2019 thru 2023.

When we talk about like the errors on the pages, we’re talking about WCAG conformance failures. So the Web content accessibility guidelines, they are tested against that and that’s where the failures come into place. 96.3% of them had detected WCAG failures. That is improved from last year by a very tiny, tiny bit. Last year was 96.8%. But over the last four years, 508 compliance errors and failures have only decreased by 1.5% in four years.

line chart showing the mere 1.5% betterment in website accessibility between 2019 and 2023

And these errors were detected through automated testers. It’s not going to catch what a human’s going to catch. Automated testers don’t catch everything. So you can assume that the numbers in the report are lower than what reality what is in reality, some specifics about what those failures are and they fall into probably about five main categories.

Low Contrast Text

The number one WCAG failure across these million websites is low contrast text, and that affects 83.6% of the sites that were tested four years ago.

WCAG Failure Type% in 2023% in 2022% in 2021% in 2020% in 2019
Low contrast text83.683.986.486.385.3
Missing alternative text for images58.255.460.666.068.0
Empty links50.149.751.359.958.1
Missing form input labels45.946.154.453.852.8
Empty buttons27.527.226.928.725.0
Missing document language18.622.328.928.033.1

It was 85.3%. So we haven’t made much improvement and this is an easy one to fix, friends. On average, each home page on this list had about 30 low contrast text errors.

Images and Alt Text

The second most common issue across all of these sites was, you guessed it, images without alt text. There are over 43 million images in the sample data, which is about 43 images per home page.

The average number of images on the home pages in this year’s report actually increased about 9% from last year, which means our sites are getting more visual, which I love, but we have to do it properly. 22% of images on each home page, which is like about nine and a half. Each page didn’t have all text, and over half of the images that didn’t have text were linked images which resulted in non-descriptive link text.

I don’t know if any of you know how I feel about that. Click here. So you can expect about a third of the images on any given home page to have missing, questionable or repetitive alternative text. Yay, that’s two.

Form Labeling

I’m pretty passionate about forms. You’ll you’ll discover this as we move forward. See, subscribe or subscribe so you can find out how passionate I am about forms.

The number of form inputs on home pages increased 13% over the past year went from 4.4 million to 5 million form fields. Just about 36% of those inputs weren’t properly labeled. This year we’re just about 36%. Four years ago, 59%. That is pretty dang awesome. So go humans. Good job.

Information Structure

This is one I think a lot of people have seen a lot of designers and developers struggle with this one. Headings are the primary mechanism that screen readers use to navigate conten. Using them properly is kind of a big deal. 20% of home pages had more than one H1 tag on them, and that actually is worse than last year, which was about 19 and a half percent.

So we actually got worse on our information structure this year. There were over a million scripts heading level, so like people went straight from H2 to H4 not didn’t use an H3 and one in every 22 headings was structured improperly skipped heading levels were skipped on more than 42% of home pages, which is actually up from last year.

We got worse on like I said, we got worse on this. It’s up from 40% last year. In 2019, it was only 36%. So we keep getting consistently worse in this area and almost 10% of home pages didn’t have any headings at all. None. They just styled some paragraph text to look like a heading, I guess. Don’t do that.

Links

I am also very passionate about descriptive links. If I hear click here or read, click here one more time is a link. I don’t know. I think a bunny will die somewhere or something like that. PETA, don’t come after me. I don’t actually mean that. I love bunnies. 17% of all of these pages had ambiguous link text like “click here,” “more,” or “continue,” things like that.

And those pages had about an average of like five instances of ambiguous links on them. So that’s that’s the top five things. And I’m really not surprised. See, I’m not surprised that we got worse in a category. I’m pleasantly surprised that we got a little bit better in any of them.

Other Cool Things

You can go in there and look at ranking of accessibility based on things like

  • top level domains (.gov .edu etc)
  • page languages
  • Technologies and coding languages used
  • Frameworks
  • Ecommerce platforms
  • Ad networks

So if you’re interested in any of those, I’m going to link the entire report in the description so you can go have some light reading at night time before you go to bed.

It’ll help you sleep. I’ll leave you with two fun facts in that sample data on on 162,000 ish pages, there were over 1 million tables, and only 16% of those tables had correct data table markup. And finally, the most errors detected on a single home page was 106,245.