Over the years, WebAim has facilitated surveys about the preferences of screen reader users. The 7th survey, which was done in October 2017, received 1,792 valid participants. These screen reader surveys help developers to better understand the user group and the needs of the user group; this information is often used by developers to insure compatibility testing, especially accessibility of websites. Initially, the survey was distributed primarily to tech savvy screen reader users who are in the technology field. The 2015 and 2017 surveys are reaching a broader base of users including those who are 'Intermediate' or 'Beginner' screen reader users. View the full 2017 survey results here. Educators can use the survey information to better understand what other screen reader users are doing with technology.
2017 Survey Results
Below are a few general highlights of the survey:
- JAWS continues to be the primary screen reader, followed by NVDA, VoiceOver, ZoomText, System Access (or SA To Go), Window-Eyes, ChromeVox, Narrator and other.
- Respondents using iOS and Android nearly tripled since 2015.
- Firefox surpassed Internet Explorer as the most common browser; however, recent versions of Firefox have significant screen reader compatibility issues, so this may change.
- The percentage of respondents using a mobile screen reader increased significantly from the 2015 survey to the 2017 survey. In 2017, 88% of participants use mobile devices; 75.6% use iOS devices.
- When completing common online tasks such as banking or shopping, 54% of respondents stated that they typically use the website vs. a mobile app; however, those who are 'Advanced' screen reader users are more apt to use a mobile app.
- When asked which would make a bigger impact on accessibility, 85.3% of respondents stated better (more accessible) websites over better assistive technology.
- The number of respondents with low vision was notably lower in 2015 which corresponds with the decreased usage of ZoomText.
Editor's Note: In the 2017 survey, 75.6% respondents stated that they exclusively rely on screen reader audio. The low vision community is roughly six times larger than the blind/non-sighted community.
- 77.8% stated that free or low-cost screen readers (such as NVDA or VoiceOver) are viable alternatives to commercial screen readers.
- 33% of screen reader users use Braille Output (refreshable braille display). The majority of these braille display users use VoiceOver over JAWS or NVDA.
Editor's Note: Unfortunately, the survey results did not ask the age of respondents; typically, survey respondents are adults. It would be interesting to know how many students - especially young students - use a braille display.
- Decrease in navigating by landmarks/regions with your screen reader.
Navigating web pages with a screen reader
Educators should be teaching students how to navigate sections of a web page with a screen reader.
Screen readers support the ability to navigate to sections of a web page using ARIA landmarks. These landmarks are visually unobtrusive; detected only with a screen reader).
JAWS Commands: semi-colon key to jump to the next landmark; shift + semi-colon to go backward through the landmarks.
NVDA Commands: D key to jump to the next landmark; shift + D to go backward through landmarks.
VoiceOver Commands: Use CTRL + ALT + U to start the web rotor, then if necessary, use the left or right arrow to display the list of landmarks (headings, links, web spots), then down arrow to navigate through the actual list of available landmarks.
Ways to navigate a web page:
- Skip to Main Content Button
- Use "Find"
- Navigate Links
- Navigate Landmarks/Regions
As part of a student's transition plan, students should know how to bank and shop online. According to the 2017 survey, 54% of screen readers use a website for online banking and shopping; however, respondents who are 'Advanced' screen reader users, are more apt to use the app. Educators, have you worked with your students on functional daily living skills apps and/or websites? Orientation and Mobility Specialists, have you introduced using smart phone apps such as Apple Pay to make purchases?
Encourage your student to answer the survey questions and compare his/her answer to the survey results. (The survey is closed; however, the survey questions and results are available here.) Discuss whether you think that students have different/unique needs? If your student falls under the 'Beginner' or 'Intermediate' level, what can he/she do to advance his/her tech skills?
Encourage your student to participate in future user surveys!