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An interesting result published on the WebAIM website shows that when it comes to WCAG Conformance for the the top 1,000,000 home pages :

97.8% of home pages had detectable WCAG 2 failures! These are only automatically detectable errors that align with WCAG conformance failures with a high level of reliability. Because automatically detectable errors constitute a small portion of all possible WCAG failures, this means that the actual WCAG 2 A/AA conformance level for the home pages for the most commonly accessed web sites is very low, perhaps below 1%.

What is perhaps more surprising is the type of errors that head the top of the list, since many of these can be automatically detected and fixed rather easily, yet the statistics show the percentage of homepages with these issues (in brackets).

  • Low contrast text (85.3%)
  • Missing alternative text for images (68%)
  • Empty links (58.1%)
  • Missing form input labels (52.8%)
  • Missing document language (33.1%)
  • Empty buttons (25%)

With so much testing and analytics being applied these days, and the homepage being such a focus for first-time and returning visitors, is it not possible to detect from the analytics users who are having trouble with the pages due to it being inaccessible? Or do they make up such an insignificant proportion of the users that it is not feasible to make the changes? Or is this not really an accessibility issue?

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The goal of WCAG according to their abstract is:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general.

The percentage of the population that would benefit from this tends to be low, although we should not ignore them. What is happening is a mix of a lot of issues.

  1. Money. It's cheaper to not deal with it, then it is. (The world revolves around $)

  2. Many sites are built by developers but the content is still uploaded by non-developers. Ex: A web developer will build the initial site in Wordpress, but the marketing person will be the one who uploads pictures. There is a spot for ALT tag information, but usually, they don't bother filling it out. I'd chuck this up to a lack of knowledge about the subject and/or time.

  3. There is no punishment for not following these standards [EDIT] in the USA. Take a look at ADA compliance for wheelchair access into buildings. Before there was a punishment for failing to comply, most buildings did not have easy access for wheelchair-bound people as it cost more money (see 1 above). Now, every new building has it and even older ones are required to comply when renovating. I imagine this changing in the far (not near) future. [EDIT] Per @locationunknown a punishment is already in effect in the EU since 2016 for non-compliance. So perhaps it's around the corner for the rest of the world (including the US)

Site analytics software may not be able to see what browser extensions are running on the user's end to help with their disability (ie. text to speech). As such it would be hard to separate these users during site visit analysis from someone who's simply having a hard time.

  • great point on the fact of people using WP! – Devin Mar 5 at 23:12
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    There is no punishment for not following these standards. EU's directive he accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies has been in effect since 2016. For example Finnish legislation in accordance to directive has penalty payment for not following the legislation, whose requirements are based on WCAG 2.1. – locationunknown Mar 6 at 6:14
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    @locationunknown Wow! I was not aware that Europe was ahead on this. I should have clarified that I was referring to the US. Thanks for the heads up. – Davbog Mar 6 at 18:08
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Most of those stats can't be extracted from analytics, you will just have data such as "user did this or that" measured by statistics on data, but such stats won't tell you WHY, they will just tell you WHAT HAPPENED, it's in you to find out the reasons.

Also, your quote mentions 1% out of 1.000.000, which is 10.000 sites. It seems about right to me, as a matter of fact it's quite shocking. I took a look to random sites in the Majestic Million list and I found most of them were parked domains, placeholders, mirrors, piracy, scam sites, link exchange... I honestly doubt any of them will pay much attention to accessibility.

In addition, I have discovered that accessibility is an extreme problem for most designers as well as developers, not to mention stakeholders. I mean: normally they can say "oh, yes, let's be accessible" and then they do absolutely nothing; or worse, they do the opposite of accessibility.

And the worst thing is that this is a numbers game: they can statistically support what they say, for the simple reason that people with disabilities are much less than people without disabilities that affect their experience.

It is for all this that the only way to detect the abandonment of a user's journey due to accessibility issues is through direct observation. Of course, you can extrapolate numbers and see if these statistics correspond to pages with accessibility problems, but as long as it can not be compared with real observation, you'll end with just assumptions

EDIT: Davbog mentioned a fact that has incredibly important statistical consequences: WordPress. WordPress sites usually use pre-made themes, or have that problem Davbog accurately mentions (a correctly developed theme with admin users carelessly adding content). Around 2 years ago we did an accessibility study on the top 10 selling WordPress themes. Not a single one passed WCAG2.0. As a matter of fact, not a single one passed WCAG 1.3.1 either. And guess what: WP admin didn't pass WCAG 1.3.1 either. If you think that 1/3 of the web uses WordPress (around 75,000,000 websites), and thousands are added every day, there you have an stat that will overthrown any attempt to reduce those numbers: for each new site following WCAG guidelines, thousands won't comply

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    Regarding your edit, this is even further made worse by a lot of the DIY site builders out there (Squarespace, Shopify, Wiz, etc.). – Davbog Mar 7 at 1:35

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