Screen readers are assistive technology that has seen a steady rise in users especially for visually impaired and blind users. Screen readers are also used by people with no disabilities – those who have reading difficulty, no education and etc. WebAIM has been surveying the various aspects of using screen-reader since July 2009. They have conducted seven surveys with their latest one in October 2017 which received 1792 valid responses. Total 18 main headers related to screen reading usage were focused from demographic to social media usage to problem areas faced by the users.
Trends in few of the areas like software technology have significantly changed in 2017 from the last survey in 2015. One of the main changes in trends was rise in popularity of low cost/free screen readers which rose to 78% when asked if they find low cost screen readers readily available in commercial market. Some expected trends like decreasing popularity of Internet Explorer was found to be true as it dropped 22%. Usage of Google Chrome has almost doubled while Firefox remains the top most used browser among screen reader users. In the race of which one is better, JAWS has emerged as a primary screen reader as respondents with disabilities prefer it contributing to majority of screen reader users. NVDA and VoiceOver were among second and third choice respectively. JAWS with IE combination was most common used in Windows (majority) and iOS operating system (second majority). 54% users use equally mobile as well as desktop/laptop screen reader while people with disabilities prefer mobile over desktop as the survey discovered. Using apps over website usage is preferred method for disabled people over other users.
Focussing on accessibility, there are positive findings as users now find social media, websites and landmarks have risen. A progress on navigating still needs to occur as survey indicated responses on if it has changed remained same. While trying to find information on browser or long content sites, 67.5 % of people use heading structures to find on page information over find feature. People with disabilities not prefer to use “skip to main content links” over with people with no disabilities. However, these “skip” links are beneficial to users who use keyboards. Braille output device use is also up – 33.3 % said yes to if they use braille out put device.
Where do users still face issues on screen readers? This was one of the most important questions on survey as screen reader being the assistive technology continuously needs to re-invent to image the use of actual devices with it reads. Survey takers were asked to mention three things in order in which they face difficulty. By notable margin, most trouble giving factor remained was CAPTCHA. Whenever, screen reader users have to access via CAPTCHA and any unexpected changes in screen make it hard to access.