WebAIM screen reader survey results

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WebAIM screen reader survey collage

WebAIM screen reader survey collage

WebAIM has conducted a screen reader survey from Dec 08 – Jan 09 with over 1000 responses mostly from users who use a screen reader on a day-to-day basis. It was interesting to see that JAWS is still the predominant screen reader (74% of respondents), while competitor WindowEyes comes in second (23%).

This makes sense, since JAWS and WindowEyes have been the leading screen reader products (with both voice and braille output) for many years and are used to not only access the web (like some newer free “light” browser plug-ins which are really not useful for users who already have a tool at hand to access their office applications and interact with their computer in general). Reported browser preferences (68% IE6/7 and 39% FF) indicate that the original JAWS/IE combination is holding strong.
Below is a quick summary of features that screen reader users use sometimes, often, or whenever available (versus seldom, never, or no response):

  • skip links – 66%
  • access keys – 66%
  • navigate by headings – 90%
  • search – 82%
  • site maps – 44%
  • text only versions – 61%
  • content identified as being created for screen readers – 78%

While users found frames to be easy to navigate, Flash content wasn’t all that popular. And here’s what they had to say about image ALT text. Advanced screen reader users seem to prefer more information over less (because they tend to be very fast when going through text and like to get “the full picture”). Therefore, they prefer to even have descriptions for pictures that are purely decorative and that only add to the mood of the page rather than conveying concrete information. Photos should be identified as such (“Photo of the White House” was preferred over “The White House”), while this is not the case for other graphics. For logos, the preferences were divided between “Acme Corporation logo” and “Acme Corporation homepage”.

The survey results also point out the different preferences  of screen reader evaluators (e.g., sighted users who evaluate site accessibility) and blind screen reader users. Overall a very informative survey. You can review the complete results at http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey/.