WebAIM is a non-profit organization with a mission to expand the potential of the web for people with disabilities by providing the knowledge, technical skills, tools, organizational leadership strategies, and vision that empower organizations to make their own content accessible to people with disabilities. WebAIM's Survey #8 (2019) resulted in 1,224 valid responses. Note: The sample was not controlled and may not represent all screen reader users. See the complete Survey #8 results here.
There is a lot of interesting information that came out of this survey. The survey is geared to focus on adults and how they use various devices and screen readers to access web information. However, students who use screen readers also use websites for educational purposes and for fun. Survey #8 is the first survey that asked about age. 9.5% of the people who responded to the survey are between the ages of 0-20. (116 people).
Note: There was also a question about whether the responder uses a screen reader due to a disability (150 responses said they did not have a disability. A WebAIM comment referred to these people as 'developers'. It would be interesting to know if any of these responses were from TVIs on behalf of their student(s).
There was an increase in self-reported screen reader proficiency and an increase in proficiency using the Internet. 71% exclusively use audio and 11% primarily use audio, but also visual.
40.6% of respondents with a disability are employed full time.
For the first time since 2009 (first WebAIM survey), NVDA was the most common primary screen reader for desktop/laptop reported - JAWS came in a close second. VoiceOver was the most common screen reader for mobile devices.
This question is of particular interest to TVIs: "When trying to find information on a lengthy web page, which of the following are you most likely to do first?"
- Navigate through the headings on the page (68.8%)
- Use the "Find" feature (15.7%)
- Navigate through the links of the page (5.6%)
- Read through the page (7.0%)
TVIs, how do your students navigate a web page? Do your students know how to navigate using these methods and when each method should be used? As an educator, I often observe students using their tech. Many times, students who rely on screen readers are more proficient with a screen reader than their TVI - and that's ok! Our job as a TVI is to start the student with strong skills, including the skill to take responsibility of expanding his/her tech knowledge, being curious, and staying current with tech. This includes learning additional keyboard shortcuts and other more advanced tech skills. Often, the TVI simply has to ask the student, "Is there a better way to . . . ?" and let the student discover and/or research other options. In this case, does your student know how to navigate through headings on a web page (or document)? Does your student know how to use the "Find" feature?
I believe I can safely draw the conclusion that the survey respondents are - on the average - strong screen reader users and that tech skills contribute to the higher employment rate (40% are employed vs. 29.5% reported by NFB in 2016). TVIs, read through the full survey results and encourage your students to read the results. How would your student answer the questions?
How often have 'we' (TVIs and VI community focusing on education) come across educational websites that are not accessible for students with visual impairments? I strongly encourage you (TVI's) to participate with future surveys and to encourage your students to participate. This international survey tracks trends and helps web team developers create accessible websites.