Accessibility is not an edge case

There's a common misconception that people using assistive technologies are an edge case. That they fall into that 1% where people disable Javascript. But, this couldn't be further from the truth.

I'm going to show you why it's important to make your website accessible.

There are a few disclaimers:

  • I'm combining figures from reports in 2014, 2016 and 2017. So the results won't be representative of a single historic year. Instead, they will be the most up to date figures I could find.

  • The reports will only capture those with a diagnosis. Those in receipt of a disability related benefit. Or, those who took part in research by the Office for National Statistics. It's likely there are more people who have disabilities but are not included in the data.

  • Of those people with a disability who do use the internet, not all will need to use assistive technology.

  • I'm only using UK statistics. People can access websites from anywhere in the world, so the figures will actually be far higher.

Lets do some math

Last year, 65,648,054 lived in the UK.

Of these, 63% were aged 16-64, and 18% were over 65. Combined, this is around 53.2 million adults.

Working out:

63% of 65,648,054 = 41,358,274
18% of 65,648,054 = 11,816,649
41,358,274 + 11,816,649 = 53,174,923

In 2014, 16% of working age people and 45% of people over state pension age were living with a disability. Combined, that's 11.9 million people in the UK alone. Around 1 in 5, or 20%.

Working out:

16% of 41,358,274 = 6,617,323
45% of 11,816,649 = 5,317,492
6,617,323 + 5,317,492 = 11,934,815

Now, in 2017, only 22% of adults living with a disability said they had never used the internet.

So, of our 11.9 million people, we can remove 22% This leaves us with the number people living with a disability that do use the internet. Which is 9.3 million.

Working out:

22% of 11,934,815 = 2,625,659
11,934,815 - 2,625,659 = 9,309,155

That is almost 10 million people in the UK alone are surfing the web with a disability. Definitely NOT an edge case.

One thing I have seen repeatedly from research, is that people always find a way to do things. People are amazing, and will learn and adapt. Those with visual impairments may use screen readers. Those with motor impairments may use a keyboard or voice activation software.

We have no way of detecting these devices. So, as designers and developers, it is important we design with these people in mind.

Having semantic markup, correct tab indexes and accessible content has never been more important. And by making our websites work better for these people, we will automatically make it better for everyone.


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