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A global survey has revealed the extent to which websites are meeting accessibility guidelines, and while many organisations reported website accessibility being a top priority, only 14 per cent meet the highest accessibility standards.

Applause, a company that partners with the brands for testing and digital quality, revealed the 2022 results of its third annual global survey on digital accessibility that coincided with Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on 19 May 2022.

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The survey examines how companies prioritise accessibility when developing their digital experiences, and what degree of emphasis they place on conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, a set of international standards for making web and mobile content more accessible to people with disabilities.

The recently completed survey of nearly 1,800 respondents, included more than 750 respondents in (Europe, Middle East and Africa) EMEA.

Nearly half of respondents rated digital accessibility as a top priority, and nearly two fifths rated accessibility as important for their organisations. Less than a twentieth rated accessibility as either a low priority or not even on the organisation’s radar.

Also, more than three fifths of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their organisations than last year.

Despite the tendency for organisations to prioritise accessibility as noted above, it was found that just under three tenths said their organisation’s website meets WCAG 2.1 standards. Of that group who said they do meet standards, just over one tenth said they meet AAA, which is the highest level.

When asked about common mistakes developers make from an accessibility perspective, the respondents’ top answers were ‘error alerts are not descriptive’, ‘site and page structure is unclear’, and ‘site is not usable by screen reader’.

Nearly half of respondents said they either have limited or no in-house expertise or resources to test for accessibility on an ongoing basis without external help. Nearly three tenths said they have some expertise, but could use more.

Luke Damian, Chief Growth Officer for Applause said: “Organisations certainly need to comply with accessibility standards from a legal perspective. However, from a broader business perspective, it’s essential for organisations to focus on developing and releasing products that are accessible and inclusive to the greatest number of current and future users.

“To achieve that, accessibility testing should be ongoing, and conducted with input from people with disabilities, so organisations can understand how their products will perform in real-world scenarios.”

Respondents answered that the top three biggest motivators in achieving accessibility conformance, over half said ‘improving usability for all end users’, one fifth said “building positive public perception” and just over one tenth felt motivated by ‘gaining and maintaining market share’.

Luke added: “As a best practice, companies should go beyond the minimum and prioritise inclusive design to create seamless experiences for all customers.

“Yet many organizations do not have the in-house expertise and resources they need. This is where organizations should engage the support of specialists to help ensure they are building high-quality, fully accessible digital experiences,”

While many organisations recognize that neglecting accessibility (A11y) can result in legal risks and lost business opportunities, full digital accessibility has additional benefits beyond risk mitigation.

The A11Y Project ‘strives to be a living example of how to create beautiful, accessible, and inclusive digital experiences’.

Back-end coding that supports accessible design can boost search engine optimisation, make automated testing easier, and generally improve the user experience for all potential customers, including people with disabilities.

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