Diamond: Strides Made in Website Accessibility This Year, But More Work Needed

Website accessibility has improved in 2020 from 2019, but there are still many sites that are either fully inaccessible or accessible “with difficulty,” according to Diamond.

“You might have some sites that actually try to do their best with accessibility, but if you don’t think about the user journey, you’re missing something big,” Joe Devon, Diamond co-founding partner and co-founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which Diamond sponsors, said May 21 during a webinar on “The State of Accessibility Report Findings.”

“Something that happens frequently is right at the gate,” there is an accessibility issue, he noted, adding: “What is a service worth if you’re not able to register, if you’re not able to then log in and log out? Imagine you can log in and then you can’t log out, and then you’re tracked every time you go there, and you can’t switch accounts to another user account. This is obviously problematic.”

So, Diamond started doing a manual test of the Alexa top 100 websites to gauge their accessibility, including their ability to register, log in and log out, he noted. It was included in its first State of Accessibility Report last year.

“The numbers are not great” in the second State of Accessibility Report that Diamond released May 21, he pointed out.

This time, “what we found is that 40 percent of the top 100 websites are fully accessible on all platforms tested” by Diamond, he said. “Now, I wouldn’t call this a good score, but my whole goal with the State of Accessibility Report, otherwise known as SOAR, is that it should improve every single year,” he told viewers.

And “one of the few bright spots is that we’ve seen some improvement in the Alexa Top 100” websites this year, he said. Last year, only 29% were fully accessible, he pointed out. Meanwhile, 39 sites of the top 100 were fully inaccessible on all platforms tested. “Although that number is too high, it is better than last year,” Devon said, noting 43% of sites last year failed.

“We’ve at least crossed the chasm where there are more sites fully accessible than sites fully inaccessible…. This is not wonderful news but at least…we’re going in the right direction,” he told viewers.

Twenty-one percent of the sites tested were accessible with difficulty, down from 28%, he said. “We consider this to be an improvement only because the 7% difference went to sites that have improved from the ‘with difficulty’ category to the completely accessible category,” the report said.

According to the report: “Any login and logout processes that seemed illogical, but were still completable, were considered accessible ‘with difficulty’. For example, triggering a login button or link and then needing to search for form elements/buttons to proceed because focus was not given to the modal.”

The report also included findings of The WebAIM Million, an annual accessibility analysis of the home pages for the top 1 million websites. In February, an average of 60.9 errors were detected per home page, according to the report. That was up from 59.6 errors in February 2019. 98.1% of home pages had at least one detectable WCAG 2 failure, up from 97.8% in 2019.

The WebAIM Million data also showed other “troubling” technology and accessibility trends. “Perhaps most concerning is a 10.4% increase in home page complexity over 12 months, from 782 page elements on average in February 2019 to 864 elements in February 2020,” the report said.

Diamond’s webinar was held on GAAD, an awareness day that focuses on digital access and inclusion for the more than 1 billion people with disabilities and impairments.

“GAAD has taken off far beyond anything” that Jennison Asuncion, GAAD co-founder and head of accessibility engineering evangelism at LinkedIn, “could have ever expected,” Devon said. “Last year, we hit a Twitter reach of 195 million unique users” he told viewers, noting it seemed to be even bigger than that this year.

Founded in 2012 and occurring on the third Thursday each May, the “purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access [and] inclusion for people with different disabilities,” according to Jonathan de Armas, a partner at Diamond. GAAD has “turned into a global event,” he said.