WebAIM Screen Reader Survey 5 - what are the trends?

Posted: 
27 February 2014

WebAIM have published the results of their fifth screen reader survey. The 1465 respondents are primarily from the USA but around a fifth of results were from Europe and the UK. This survey gives an interesting picture of the trends that have changed in screen reader use, and identify how people are using them. The survey shows that predominantly the people responding class themselves as either advanced or intermediate users of screen readers and the internet.

What screen reader is most popular?

This is always the burning question that people want to know the answer to. Although the popularity of JAWS has declined slightly over recently years, since the last survey in 2012 the use has remained the same at around 50%.

There has been an indication in the steady increase again of the use of NVDA with 18.6% and Apple VoiceOver at 10.3%. Interestingly, NVDA is nearly three times more popular in Europe/UK than in North America.

It was noted that since the last survey the use of Window-Eyes has declined by half to 6.7%. It will be interesting to see if this will now increase with the Microsoft and Window-Eyes collaboration.

There was also a small increase again in the number of people who use more than one screen reader (62%), reflecting the mobile and desktop use and also the fact that some use certain screen readers for certain jobs.

More about screen reader use

The perception of free and low cost screen readers such as VoiceOver and NVDA has continued to become more and more positive with 73.5% of people saying they think they are viable alternatives to commercial screen readers. This has increased from 48% in 2009.

The survey asks what devices people are using a screen reader on and as expected some are using the desktop, laptop or a mobile. However, since the last survey there has been a great jump from 41% to 85% of people using a screen reader on multiple devices. This supports the cultural change of people owning more than one device and also having access to accessible mainstream technology.

Mobile use increases again

One of the most startling results in this survey continues to be the fast increasing popularity of screen reader use on mobile. 12% people reporting using mobile screen readers in 2009 and in this survey it was up again from last time to 82%. It was interesting to note that 44% of users stated that they use mobile screen readers more or about the same amount as their desktop ones, supporting the fact that more people use online services on the go.

The primary mobile platform is still Apple with 65.2% and this has increased, however the usage of Android has doubled to 16%. We are seeing a natural decline in Nokia with 14.3% due to Talks no longer being supported. Windows Phone makes an appearance at 0.3%. One of the most interesting statistics is that the Apple/Android split shows higher Apple use in this community, than the community at large.

The screen reader statistics for mobile support broadly the mobile platform statistics, with VoiceOver coming in at 60.5%, Android TalkBack at 21.6% and Talks at 15.6%.

Using the internet

Internet Explorer continues to dominate the browser market for this user group with Internet Explorer 9 and above rating at 38.9% and other versions also being recorded. However there is a slight decrease in the use of Internet Explorer. Firefox was second with 24.2% and Safari third with 10%.

When asked about the ways they used the internet, a high proportion (65/6%) stated that for long pages they navigated using headings. This was followed by using the 'Find' facility at 15.2%. This just underlines the importance of using appropriate headings on websites.

The respondents seemed to be more positive about accessibility progress and expected that the websites should be the ones making the changes, rather than the problem being the fault of the screen reader.

A new question for this year asked if users would be happy for there to be screen reader detection when coming to a site, if it would offer a better experience. 66.4% said yes.

Conclusion

This survey shows that although Apple continues to dominate the mobile market, Android is now on the rise. Although JAWS is still popular on the desktop, more people are seeing the benefit of good quality free screen readers in VoiceOver and NVDA.

I look forward to seeing if Window-Eyes will change the balance of results on the desktop next time and if the trend for using multiple screen readers use on multiple devices continues.

The full WebAIM screen reader survey results are available on the WebAIM website.

 

Posted at: 27/02/2014 5:10 PM by Steve Griffiths