Firms Prioritize Digital Accessibility But Investment Still Lagging, Survey Shows

Heading into Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which takes place on May 16, if one were to attempt to summarize the current state of digital accessibility in crude but impactful terms – one might reasonably suggest that it’s a case of firms needing to put their money where their mouth is.

That’s according to the results of Massachusetts-based global user testing experts Applause’s fourth annual Accessibility and Inclusive Design Survey. This year’s survey canvassed the opinions of over 3,500 software testers, product engineers, developers, QA and UX specialists and legal professionals from around the world and found that only 19% of respondents felt they possessed adequate internal resources and investment to keep accessibility goals on track. Twenty-six percent of respondents reported having limited resources – up from 23% last year.

On a more positive note, 44% of respondents strongly agreed that digital accessibility is a higher priority for their company than last year, an encouraging increase up from 27% in 2023. Reassuringly, Over 77% reported having a person or group at their organization responsible for ensuring the accessibility of digital products for users with disabilities.

Additionally, 26% of respondents described their current comprehension of digital accessibility as “advanced” up from 21% in 2023 and 79% said they build accessibility into their design plans at the outset rather than seeking to retrofit.

Nevertheless, despite this meaningful progress, it would appear that a significant gap remains between intention and outcome when it comes to fully embedding digital accessibility in web and mobile app design as an ever-present, non-negotiable, business-as-usual practice.

Applause’s survey also examined several important trends related to digital accessibility with a high degree of relevance to the age we live in – namely, adherence to the recently updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines now at version 2.2, preparedness to meet the requirements for the European Accessibility Act which comes into force in June 2025 and the use of AI tools for accessibility testing.

Concerning WCAG 2.2 which was released last October, 42% of respondents said that their company is in conformance with WCAG 2.2 standards.

The European Accessibility Act applies to any entity wishing to do business in Europe and will naturally have an impact on many U.S.-based organizations. Currently, less than one-third (32%) felt they were on schedule to meet the requirements of the EAA.

Finally, regarding the often controversial topic of utilizing AI to address web accessibility issues, 50% of respondents said they were using AI to identify accessibility issues which represents an increase of 10% from last year. However, the survey did not distinguish between the use of AI to identify problems and its deployment to remediate them – the latter of which can be more problematic depending on the complexity of the issue.

This is a point emphasized by Bob Farrell, Vice President of Solution Delivery and CX Practices for Applause who said of the use of AI in accessibility in a post about the survey on the company’s website:

“Prioritizing accessibility needs to come with the right investments. While automation can be a valuable tool when used as part of a mature accessibility testing strategy, it should bolster, not replace, internal resources. Many accessibility issues are simply not machine-detectable, and though AI is already improving issue discoverability, it too is still not a stand-in for real human perspectives.”

All in all, Applause’s survey serves as an interesting snapshot of the current state of play for digital accessibility and provides valuable perspectives from a contingent all too often ignored when reporting on the topic – the designers and developers themselves operating at the very fulcrum of making the digital world a more inclusive and welcoming place.

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Heading into Global A…