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4 Takeaways From the 2024 WebAIM Million Report

Posted April 24, 2024


Posted April 24, 2024

A collection of websites, with a red accessibility icon in the center that has a crack through the middle
A collection of websites, with a red accessibility icon in the center that has a crack through the middle

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In this post, accessibility experts at AudioEye break down key takeaways from the latest WebAIM Million report, including the growing gap in accessibility and the value of including members of the disability community in accessibility testing.

According to the latest WebAIM Million report, web accessibility is an ongoing challenge for many of the world’s leading brands.

For the sixth straight year, WebAIM analyzed the home pages of the top 1,000,000 websites and detected an average of 56.8 accessibility errors per page — a 13.6% increase from the number of errors detected in 2023.

Overall, 95.9% of pages tested had at least one accessibility error based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — a slight improvement on the 96.3% of pages with at least one error in 2023.

We wanted to understand why progress toward a more inclusive digital future has seemingly stalled, so we asked accessibility experts at AudioEye to weigh in on key takeaways from the report. Here’s what they shared:

1. The Accessibility Gap Is Getting Wider

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from WebAIM’s latest report is that web accessibility doesn’t seem to be getting better in 2024 — at least on the surface.

Overall, the percentage of home pages with at least one accessibility error is about the same as in 2023. And it hasn’t improved much from the original report in 2019, which found that 97.8% of home pages had at least one error.If you dig deeper, however, there are signs that many home pages are getting more accessible — even if they aren’t entirely error-free. 

A graph from the 2024 WebAIM Million report, which shows the total percentage of home pages with at least one accessibility error from 2019 to 2024.

If you dig deeper, however, there are signs that many home pages are getting more accessible — even if they aren’t entirely error-free.

According to WebAIM, 22.2% of home pages had five or fewer detected errors, and 31.2% had 10 or fewer.

In WebAIM’s analysis of their report, they noted that “the proportion of pages with fewer errors has increased [over the last few years] while the number of pages with many errors has also increased.

In other words, the accessibility gap between websites is getting wider — and we think it’s because more organizations are taking a more complete approach to accessibility testing and remediation.

Instead of relying solely on automated testing or manual audits, organizations are doing both. And that’s helping them catch a greater variety of errors — including ones that cannot be identified by automation alone.

At AudioEye, we recommend a combination of automation, expert custom testing, ongoing training on the latest accessibility requirements, and developer tools that let organizations test the accessibility of digital content before it goes live.

This approach has helped us deliver the industry’s lowest rate of valid accessibility claims, and we suspect many of the organizations outperforming the field in WebAIM’s report are taking a similar approach.

2. Bigger Websites = More Detected Errors

In WebAIM’s 2024 report, the number of detected errors increased 13.6% from the previous year.

However, WebAIM noted that home pages are becoming more complex based on the total number of elements detected on each page. Over the last six studies, that number has increased from 800 million in 2019 to 1.2 billion in 2024.

Notably, the percentage increase in page elements between 2023 to 2024 (11.8%) almost mirrors the percentage increase in errors detected over that same period.

A graph from the 2024 WebAIM Million report, which shows the total number of home page elements detected from 2019 to 2024.

What this tells us is that organizations aren’t necessarily getting worse at finding or fixing accessibility violations. They just aren’t getting better and haven’t found an approach that can reliably keep pace with an expanding digital landscape.

Worse, some of the page elements that have historically caused organizations trouble—like images and input fields—are also becoming more prevalent.

According to WebAIM, the average home page in 2024 had 55.6 images — a 28% increase from the previous year. Over that same period, the number of form inputs on home pages increased by 22.6%.

“Not surprisingly, the infusion of digital media, virtual reality, and gaming has made websites and user interaction workflows more complex — and that’s impacted usability and accessibility,” said Mike Paciello, AudioEye’s Chief Accessibility Officer and a 40-year veteran of the technology industry. “Equally unsurprising is the inability of in-house accessibility teams and accessibility professional service companies to keep up with the pervasive production of digital content.”

According to Paciello, experts predict that internet users will create 147 zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2024 — more than double the amount of data created in 2020. And that contributes to an environment where accessibility errors will continue to become more prevalent unless organizations are willing to shift their approach.

“There is little reason to believe that future WebAIM reports will significantly improve unless there is a paradigm shift in the accessibility industry,” he said.

Instead, Paciello suggested three keys that can help bring about the required technological and mindset shift:

  1. We need more C-suite leaders to adopt and champion an organizational Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM), which will help embed accessibility across an organization and ensure that it’s not addressed retroactively or as part of the last mile of service delivery.
  2. We must continue investing in developer tools, high-quality automation, and AI-based accessibility solutions that enable organizations to write more accessible source code, scale accessibility testing and remediation efforts, and exceed the pace of new web content creation.
  3. We need government-funded incentive programs that help drive the adoption of accessible development practices and create another business value proposition for organizations to invest in accessibility.”

3. Organizations Still Struggle With the Same Violations

For the sixth straight year, the same six issues made up the vast majority (96.4%) of errors detected by WebAIM:

  • Low contrast text
  • Missing alternative text for images
  • Missing form input labels
  • Empty links
  • Empty buttons
  • Missing document language

In WebAIM’s report, they noted that simply resolving several of these issues would substantially improve web accessibility for people with disabilities.

A graph from the 2024 WebAIM Million report, which shows the six most common accessibility errors detected: Low contrast text, missing image alternative text, missing form labels, empty links, empty buttons, and missing document language.

For example, ensuring adequate color contrast between a page's text and background would improve readability for people with low vision or color blindness, while labeling input forms would help screen reader users know what to enter into each field.

However, it’s worth noting that not all of these issues can be adequately resolved by most automated accessibility solutions, which rely on rules-based automation.

Take empty links, for example. Although an automated accessibility tool can detect the presence of a link description, it can’t tell if that description accurately describes where users will be taken or what they’ll get after clicking the link.

4. Human Testers Can Help Find and Fix Many of These Violations

At AudioEye, we continue to highlight the importance of supplementing automation with expert human testing — providing a critical layer of human insight and subjectivity.

“In order for organizations to ensure that their websites, digital documents, and mobile apps are accessible and usable by members of the disability community, it’s important to engage testing services that employ people with disabilities who use assistive technology or add them to internal test teams,” said Alisa Smith, an Accessibility Evangelist at AudioEye.

According to her, these testers’ “unique expertise and daily experience” navigating digital content with assistive technology enables them to provide the most helpful and actionable feedback on usability and accessibility.

“By incorporating their insights, organizations can create digital products that are accessible to everyone and comply with accessibility standards and regulations,” she said.

Unfortunately, it’s worth noting that some members of the disability community have encountered resistance when trying to share accessibility feedback in the past — which is why it’s critical to communicate the value of testing from native assistive technology users.

“When I talk to some developers about accessibility, they don’t listen because they don’t think I know what I’m talking about,” said Mikaela Smith, one of AudioEye’s A11iance QA testers. “If accessibility is going to move forward, companies need to listen to their customers and be able to take their advice and criticism.”

AudioEye’s Take on the Accessibility of the World’s Leading Brands.

In 2023, AudioEye conducted a similar study with our first Digital Accessibility Index. The study scanned almost 2 million pages across 40,000 enterprise websites. Then, we had certified accessibility experts — including members of the disability community — manually audit some of the top websites in key industries like retail, travel, and government.

Like WebAIM, we found that many of the world’s leading brands struggled to deliver an accessible, compliant digital experience to every user — with frequent errors related to image, link, and form accessibility. However, we also discovered that keyboard accessibility was a persistent challenge, with 54% of pages with forms having issues that affected critical user actions like tabbing between form fields, closing pop-up windows, or pressing ‘Submit’ buttons.

Keyboard accessibility issues were also among the most common (and disruptive) accessibility barriers uncovered during our manual audits. Testers were frequently forced to abandon carts or refresh pages after getting stuck on a page element they couldn’t control using their keyboard.

Across all pages scanned, we detected an average of 36.8 accessibility errors per page, which is slightly less than WebAIM’s report. However, it’s worth noting that we scanned up to 100 pages per site (many of which had fewer elements than the average home page) and marked contrast issues as warnings instead of errors.

Overall, our Index confirmed what WebAIM’s annual report has highlighted since 2019: Accessibility errors are far more common than many organizations realize and can severely impact the disability community’s ability to enjoy equal access to the internet.

Want to learn more about the accessibility of the world’s leading brands? Check out the latest WebAIM Million report or dive into AudioEye’s Digital Accessibility Index.

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