Digital Accessibility: Perceptions, Expectations and Reality (White Paper)

The aspect of equal access to the Web has always been a critical driving factor in the development of this digital medium.  Indeed, it was Sir Tim Berners-Lee who stated “The power of the Web is in its universality.  Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” (World Wide Web Consortium: Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI) 2019)

The goal of this research was to determine if there is a disparity between the perceptions organisations have regarding the accessibility of their digital products and the experience of the user.

The standards for digital accessibility are well-defined and embedded in processes and legislature in most countries. Universal access is considered an essential aspect, as stated by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web.   Why then, do we continue observe a low rate of adoption of the digital accessibility principles?

In this paper, the authors survey both organisations and users to determine the disparity mentioned above, and to add to that a discussion which will inform owners of digital products how best to remedy the situation and create a more meaningful user experience, while demonstrating the business benefits of improving digital accessibility for the website owner.

When we truly embrace digital accessibility, not only do we meet our local legislative and international human rights obligations, but we also reduce costs, and build our internal capacity for design and innovation.  Our clients become our partners in building for universal design and they in turn build partnerships with their customers, continually creating delightful user experiences. (Conway, 2018)


To download this white paper as PDF, click here. Otherwise you can navigate using the navigation links on the left or clicking the section links at the bottom of each page.


The Problem – Is there a disconnect between what organizations believe they are providing and the actual user experience?  Do organisations provide what they believe is a fully accessible digital product?  Is the consumers experience however, that the product has accessibility issues?  •	Key Areas this paper will cover research findings of two surveys to determine these perceptions and expectations together with discussion on the findings of the research. •	Benefits of this research – This is current research conducted with both groups, providers and users, to give a clear snapshot at the same point in time, coupled with the expertise of the authors to determine a way forward.•	Requirement for digital accessibility is mandated by the United Nations Convention as well as being embedded in law in most countries •	The standards are well-established •	We need to know where we stand regarding compliance and meeting user needs

Perceptions key points

•	most users form an impression of an organisation by its website; •	users would switch to a different organisation for information if it was available elsewhere; •	users want legislation improved; •	users who complained, often did not go back to the website to check if the issue has been fixed, meaning they may not go back at all and resulted in a lost customer; •	the same issues of design, robot-detection methods, poor form design, difficulty finding information and structure continue to top the polls for most problematic issues for users; •	over 80% of users would switch to a different website when faced with accessibility issues, if there is a choice and •	If there isn’t a choice of website, the user is faced with the issue of either contacting the organisation for another method of receiving the information, or requesting outside assistance to help them use the website.•	Organisations largely feel their digital products are accessible, but users do not agree. •	Users form their opinion of an organisation through the accessibility or design of the website in the same manner they view a physical building or the attitude of staff in the organisation. •	Users will leave a website if: o	 it is not easy to use; o	 is not accessible and usable, and o	 if they have an alternative website choice. •	If there is no choice for an alternative website, the user is faced with the issue of getting help from the organisation (telephone or email or in person), or having to surrender their security/privacy/independence to ask someone to assist them.


Take me to the next section: Introduction