Digital accessibility in 2020: how are we doing?

Various objects to go exploring placed on an American map

Level Access is the international market leader in digital accessibility solutions. Every year, this American company conducts surveys among companies from different sectors to determine the state of digital accessibility. This year, more than 1,100 companies responded, three-quarters of which were American and the rest international (but US based). The conclusions are published in the 2020 State of Digital Accessibility report. This report was presented during the 9th Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 21, 2020. And although this report is mainly about the US market, we would like to share the main conclusions from this report. After all, the US digital accessibility market is a global frontrunner.

How long have organizations been seriously embracing accessibility?

Most accessibility programs are 2 to 3 years old (27%), secondly followed by programs over 6 years old (21%). Also, a striking: 8% of the surveyed organizations have had accessibility programs for more than 20 years!

Who is responsible within the organization?

In 60% of the companies, responsibility for accessibility programs lies with one department, so far in most cases with the IT department (18%). More and more companies are setting up a specific department for diversity and inclusivity.

Often only a limited number of people are responsible for accessibility within a company. In fact, at 45% of the surveyed companies, a maximum of 3 people are responsible for accessibility.

Almost half of the companies use long-term or incidental services from external suppliers to improve accessibility within the company. These are often the somewhat larger companies and companies where competition is fierce. External suppliers conduct accessibility audits (33%) most frequently. Of the sectors studied, the government is the least likely to make use of external expertise.

Why are companies concerned with accessibility?

Organizations often have several reasons to deal with accessibility. Inclusion is the most frequently cited (68%), but anticipation of regulations (40%) and brand image (35%) are also popular mentioned reasons.

In addition, fears of enforcement (33%) and publications about other companies being sued (23%) are important drivers. Especially US companies mention these last two arguments.

In the 2019 survey 28% of companies indicated that they started implementing WCAG 2.1 guidelines. That percentage increased to 56% according to the 2020 report.

What are the biggest challenges?

Companies are still facing many challenges when it comes to their accessibility programs. The top 5 challenges are:

1.   Involve accessibility earlier in the development process (56%)

56% of the respondents indicate that they want to involve accessibility earlier in the development process of digital products and services. Restoring existing products and services is very expensive. You save money and time if you take accessibility into account in the ideation and planning stages.

2.   Train people on accessibility (55%)

Although 94% of the respondents indicate that it is important to train people on accessibility at least annually, only 26% do. Nevertheless, most respondents indicate that knowledge about accessibility within the organization has increased since the previous survey.

3.   Find enough time (51%)

It takes time to develop an easily accessible product or service. There is often no time in a competitive environment.

4.   Test with people with challenges (45%)

Companies do not use a sufficient amount of people with challenges in usability tests. In contrast with this, according to 94% of the participants in the survey, it is important that organizations start including people with a challenge in their usability tests. Yet 56% of organizations do not apply this at all. Moreover it is striking that budget availability does not automatically lead to more inclusive testing. A greater number of years of experience with accessibility programs appears to have a greater impact on the use of inclusive usability tests.

5.   Maintain accessible despite the speed of content creation (44%)

About 67% of company websites have multiple content updates per week. Especially educational institutions (61%) and government organizations (49%) report that this makes it very difficult to keep the site accessible. Some notable results of the study:

Our main conclusion: automation is a must

If we zoom out from the outcomes of this 2020 State of Digital Accessibility report, we can conclude that with the current solutions it is very difficult to make digital content accessible. This because accessibility takes a lot of time, because it is difficult to anchor accessibility responsibility throughout the organization and because the lightning-fast production of new content makes keeping the website accessible a major challenge. And that is a sobering observation for the world’s most mature market in digital accessibility.

Actually, the report expresses a need for automation. In a way that accessibility becomes cheaper, takes less time and is structurally included in the production of new content.

More than 66% of the companies in the 2020 survey do not use plugins, because currently it is mainly a solution to make a website more usable, but it is not yet a solution to make the website accessible. And the latter is necessary.

With Aally, we are working hard on a solution that helps organizations meet the above challenges.

Curious what Aally can do for your organization in terms of accessibility? We are happy to show you.