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American Foundation for the Blind Releases Phase 2 Study of Barriers to Digital Inclusion

May 21, 2024
Source: American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) released this week its latest study in a series examining the digital inclusion of people with disabilities on websites and mobile applications. The study continues to affirm that major accessibility barriers still exist online, resulting in significant time spent and lost revenue opportunities.

The study released provided a better understanding of the frustrations of users who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision experience when encountering inaccessible content online, through mobile apps, or kiosks. Among the key findings, researchers discovered users experience an average of 12 obstacles per week, which required an additional 2.4 hours of lost time spent trying to navigate the inaccessible platform. This was double the time needed to perform online tasks without barriers. When people faced inaccessible kiosks in retail settings or medical offices, they spent 74% of the time on a given task working through accessibility hurdles.

“The findings in this second phase of our research on digital inclusion truly reveal how time-consuming inaccessible web and mobile applications are for people who rely on assistive technology to perform basic tasks,” said Stephanie Enyart, AFB Chief Public Policy and Research Officer. “This significant amount of additional time lost results in lost productivity and business, which would not have been the case if app developers simply followed the standards for accessibility that are readily available.”

Recent regulations require that entities build their websites and apps to a specific accessibility standard and the Department of Justice has routinely held that these standards apply to a wide array of entities.

Research participants shared frustrations ranging from inaccessible wavers for recreation centers to wasting up to three hours simply trying to purchase airline tickets. On average, participants required 24.3 minutes of assistance per week when sighted assistance was available. And, as discovered in the initial first phase of this series released in April 2023, it was unsurprising that barriers would result in customers taking their business elsewhere when possible. In 20% of cases, participants gave up the task they were trying to do because the accessibility barriers were insurmountable, and often this meant walking away from an online purchase.

Recommendations from the study included ongoing work by federal, state, and local governments to push forward safeguards that guarantee accessibility. Instructors of computer science courses are also encouraged to incorporate accessibility best practices for future developers, and public and private entities are encouraged to make sure content meets accessibility standards and new software developers have a working understanding of building web and mobile applications that use these standards.

For more information on this study, visit the report’s executive summary, which links to additional information uncovered in this ongoing series.

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