Accessibility News: WebAIM survey results on screen readers

WebAIM recently posted results to a survey of screen reader users, conducted from December 2008 – January 2009. In Survey of Preferences of Screen Readers Users, they share very interesting results regarding the usage of screen reader technology in web navigating.

Some of the initial findings perhaps aren’t surprising. Of the 1121 participants, the vast majority (nearly 90%) use screen reader technology all of the time and because of a disability. 96% of them cited visual impairment, in most cases outright blindness.

The breakdown of screen reader usage is insightful:

  • JAWS – 74%
  • Windows Eyes – 23%
  • NVDA – 8%
  • VoiceOver – 6%

(WebAIM points out that percentages often don’t add up to 100% due to rounding, and in this case also because of the possibility of usage of multiple products)

Most of the participants utilize desktop PCs (78%), with just over half use screen readers on a laptop. Those using mobile technology with screen readers made up a much smaller 12%.

Lastly (for this post), web browser usage breaks down as follows:

  • Internet Explorer 7 – 68%
  • Firefox – 39%
  • Internet Explorer 6 – 33%
  • Safari – 6%
  • Internet Explorer 8 – 2%

Amongst the nearly 7% of participants who used screen readers though were not disabled (some for evaluation purposes), Firefox usage was twice as prevalent. It was also noted that the question was not worded “primary” browser, just browser usage, and that IE8 and Safari were, essentially, write-in votes.

While none of this is exact science, the findings are all-around very interesting and offer a glimpse into the methods and practices of screen reader users.

I’ll close for now, having focused on the software and hardware findings. There are a slew of results covering browsing tendencies, from home page navigation to access keys to Flash and imagery frustrations/ease of use.

All in all, these results are well worth combing through and considering when evaluating accessibility, particularly as it relates to the visually impaired.

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