May 18, 2023 marks the 12th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day to focus on the importance of digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people, or 16% of the global population, are currently living with some form of disability. Collaboration to establish and periodically update important standards like WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) has raised awareness around the need for websites and digital experiences to be accessible to all.
However, although companies around the world have made progress in improving digital accessibility since the 1.0 version of WCAG was first published in 1999, there is still much work to be done. According to a sample of Applause data which will be available in the State of Digital Quality Report next week, digital quality testers encountered more than 30,000 accessibility bugs in the course of 1,275 testing cycles in 2022. Testers found problems like missing closed captions or audio descriptions with videos, missing text which caused screen reader devices to work improperly, or insufficient color contrast ratios making screen text unreadable for some. Though relatively simple to fix, these bugs can create insurmountable usability challenges for people with blindness, low vision, deafness, hearing loss or other issues.
With a pending update to WCAG 2.2 this summer, and the implementation of the EU Accessibility Act in June 2025 which can result in fines for non-conformance, companies should be focused on advancing accessibility and inclusivity for their digital products and experiences.
To help us gain further insights into accessibility priorities and trends around the world, Applause recently conducted its annual Digital Accessibility and Inclusive Design Survey. This year, more than 1,300 respondents including product engineers, legal professionals, software developers, QA and UX professionals, participated in the survey.
Here are some key takeaways.
More than one-third said their accessibility knowledge is “basic” or less
Having insights into the issues people with disabilities experience from a digital perspective is crucial for designing and developing products that are accessible to all users. When survey respondents were asked to rate their personal level of understanding of digital accessibility, 35% said their level is either basic (28%) or very little (7.5%). Just under 6% considered themselves experts.
Organizations are prioritizing accessibility
Creating a culture of inclusivity requires making accessibility an organizational priority. This year’s survey shows nearly 43% regarded accessibility as a top priority for their organization, which is slightly lower than in 2022 (46%). On an encouraging note, a mere 2% said accessibility is not at all a priority.
Meanwhile, when asked if digital accessibility is a higher priority for their company this year than it was last year, 69% said yes.
Engineers writing code with accessibility in mind
An encouraging trend in this year’s survey is that of the 289 engineers who responded to the survey, 74% said they either sometimes (26%), often (24%), or always (24%) write code with accessibility in mind. This is a significant increase over 59% last year who said they sometimes (24%), often (20%) or always (15%) do.
However, of the product developers surveyed, 71% said they build accessibility into their design plans at the earliest stages, which marks a slight downward trend over the previous three years (2022: 73%; 2021: 76%).
Growth in dedicated resources for accessibility
Over the past three years, we have seen a definite upward trend for companies to have a dedicated person or team responsible for making sure their products are accessible. This year, 72% said they have a resource, as opposed to 52% in 2022 and 53% in 2021.
Stagnant on meeting WCAG conformance
Respondents said that the top motivators for achieving WCAG conformance were “improving usability for all end users” (45%), “building positive public perception” (22%) and “gaining and maintaining market share” (15%).
However, for a third year in-a-row, just over one-third of survey respondents (35%) said their company’s website meets WCAG 2.1 standards; 17% said it does not meet standards, and the remainder responded, “I don’t know” (48%).
Steps toward inclusivity
While our survey shows a growing prioritization of accessibility, motivation to improve usability for all, and effort to put the right resources in place for ensuring accessibility, there is still room for advancement in a number of areas. Here are some things to consider to advance your organization’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity:
Consider legal compliance just a starting point.
Commit to educating your teams on accessibility and WCAG standards.
Make accessibility and inclusivity a priority when designing and coding new products and features.
Test digital properties for accessibility throughout the development process.
Include input from people with disabilities and non-disabled, in design and testing.
Learn more about digital inclusivity solutions at Applause.