WebAIM’s Screen Reader User Survey

You can see the full set of results of the WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey #3. I hope you’ll study them with interest.

I want to highlight a few of their findings here.

ARIA Landmarks

Chart showing usage of ARIA landmarks

ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) introduces something called landmarks. These provide quick access to page areas, such as navigation, search, and main content. Which of the following best describes your use of landmarks?
Response # of Respondents % of Respondents
I didn’t know this functionality existed 342 30.9%
I do not use landmarks for navigation 287 25.9%
I sometimes use landmarks for navigation 277 25.0%
I use landmarks for navigation whenever they are present 161 14.5%
My screen reader does not support landmarks 40 3.6%

Awareness of landmarks has increased – 42% were unaware of this functionality in October 2009. However, these data continue to show mixed levels of usage.

In spite of that finding, I think its important to teach people how to use ARIA roles, particularly in HTML5. In HTML5, we’re still dealing with levels of support for various new elements, and any help that a front-end developer can add to the code is a good thing.

Other findings important to front-end developers:

  • JAWS is still the primary tool, although others are increasing in number
  • Almost 95% of users have JavaScript enabled
  • A majority of users are using a screen reader on a mobile device, too
  • The main method for navigating a page is using headings
  • The use of “skip links” and access keys is decreasing
  • The heading structure found most useful by a big majority of screen reader users: Two first level headings, one for the site name and one for the document title
  • Users indicate strong usefulness of the longdesc attribute, which may not make it into HTML5

HTML5 and screen readers

It’s been on my mind lately to try to find out how well a screen reader will navigate a page of HTML5. I’m particularly wondering about how hierarchy would make sense if there were to be a series of articles on a page, all with an h1 in a header element.

HTML5, ARIA Roles, and screen readers in May 2010 is a research report based on several screen readers. They are JAWS 11, Window-Eyes 7.11, NVDA 2010.1, and SAToGo 3.0.202. The results are different for each screen reader.

On YouTube, you can see a video of JAWS reading the liferay.com homepage, which has “lots” of HTML5.

Using WAI-ARIA Landmark roles gives screen reader results, mainly about how landmark roles are handled. This article also explains what ARIA landmark roles are and how to start using them. Be sure to read the comments about this article.

On the WebAIM blog, Aaron Anderson is working his way through a series of articles about various aspects of HTML5. The series is dubbed future web accessibility and to date includes a look at semantic elements, video, canvas, and several other HTML5 elements.

Interesting articles, even though they don’t exactly answer my question about multiple h1 elements on a page.