Less than 1% of website home pages are likely to meet accessibility standards

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Written by Claudia Cahalane, AbilityNet

A new accessibility report – the WebAIM Million: An accessibility analysis of the top one million home pages – indicates that less than 1% of website home pages are likely to meet standard accessibility requirements. The results of the latest accessibility report by US charity WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) offers some disappointing figures for those who care about making the web a more inclusive place. The results also mean that online companies will likely be missing out on billions of pound of sales because their sites are unusable to large numbers of people.

The WebAIM report found that 97.8% of home pages had automatically detectable Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 AA failures. The WCAG 2 AA standard is used as a starting point for UK government web sites and is seen as a general standard of web accessibility. However, WebAIM said that automatically detectable errors only constitute a small portion of all possible WCAG failures. This means that the actual WCAG 2 AA conformance level for the most commonly accessed web sites home pages is likely to be below 1%.

Top findings from the WebAIM Milliion accessibility report:

  • Home pages averaged 59.6 detectable errors
  • 7.6% of all the elements of a home page have a detectable accessibility error
  • At least 97.8% of homepages failed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level 2 compliance (generally seen as an acceptable standard of accessibility)
  • Low contrast text was the most common detectable issue. There was an average of 36 instances of low contrasts text on each home page
  • One-third of all images were missing alternative text
  • 59% of form inputs were not properly labelled

To find out more about the report, AbilityNet accessibility and usability consult Adi Latif spoke to Jared Smith, associate director of WebAIM. You can find the video below of their conversation at accessibility conference CSUN, below.

Smith comments: “The results show pervasive and excessive web issues. There were lots of errors, an average of 60 errors per homepage. And, 98% of pages failed WCAG (level 2 compliance). This is using the WAVE/ WebAIM tool, but in manual tests there could be other errors.”

He added: “The number of errors wasn’t entirely surprising, but I was hopeful; I wanted things to be more positive. Over half of all inputs on homepages are not labelled, most of these are basic accessibility techniques. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

According to WedAIM, automated tools, including WAVE, are limited in their detection of accessibility issues—only around 25% of possible conformance failures can be automatically detectable. But the charity said the data presented in the report still provides a meaningful representation of the state of web inaccessibility.

WedAIM said there was no significant difference in error counts or error density based on the popularity of a website. However, the home pages for the most popular domains had slightly more errors and more elements (ie photos, tables, sections) than home pages for the least popular sites in the sample.

Most common web home pages accessibility failures

Below are the most common failures under WCAG guidelines, which are sometimes used by governments to fine websites who don’t follow the guidelines. Many of these failures make website complicated or unreadable for users with vision loss, blindness or cognitive disabilities.

Low Contrast:

  • 85.3% of home pages had issues with this
  • On average, a home page had around 36 instances of text with insufficient contrast

Missing alternative text:

  • 68% of home pages had issues with this
  • On average around 12 images on each home page were missing ‘alt’ / alternative text


  • 58.1% of home pages had issues with empty links
    24.4% of pages had links with ambiguous link text, such as “click here”, “more”, “continue”, etc (not useful for screenreaders).

Missing form labels:

  • 52.8% of home pages had issues with this
    59% of 3.4 million form inputs were unlabelled

Missing document language

  • 33.1 of home pages had issues with this

Empty buttons

  •  25% of home pages had issues with this

WebAim said however that while failures are prevalent, the types of common errors are relatively few. Simply addressing these few types of issues would have a significant positive impact on web accessibility.

The accessibility of Squarespace and WordPress

The WebAIM study also assessed different content management systems such as Squarespace and WordPress. Development tools including Joomla and ARIA were also included. Home pages on Squarespace had almost half as many errors as other content management systems. Blogger had more than three times as many errors as other pages. Although, WebAIM explained that the errors could not automatically be attributed to a specific technology.

Jared Smith said WebAim would keep building on the information and hoped that it would be used to improve web accessibility. “We have 168 million data points. There’s a lot of information about each of the pages,” he said.

“We’re going to expand more in future to allow additional analyses. We want it to be informative and prescriptive and for people to take this and do something about accessibility. We want to make data open and we want to collaborate.There’s a lot more data out there that we can start to collect. The intent is to get useful data about accessibility on the web and allow people to use it for good,” added Smith.

For advice on making your website more accessible, click here.

Originally posted here.

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