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    25% of all web users are disabled

    Did you know that up to 25% of all visitors on your website have some kind of accessibility problem. Some of your users may be blind, deaf, dyslectic, has learning disabilities or motoric disabilities such as schlerosis, parkinson’s disease, etc. A so-called functional disability.

    But how about users with a technical disability: Wireless devices, slow internet connections, old browsers, feed readers, etc. These should be considered as well, as there are probably more people with technological disability than functional disability.

    25% of all web users have some kind of accessibility problem. That is a claim from the Danish Center for Accesibility. Here is my translation:

    Acessibility on the internet affects many different user groups. An accessible website pays attention to users that for instance:

    • Uses earlier versions of a browser or uses another browser than the website is tested with.
    • Has a slow internet connection or has a smal screen
    • Uses new technical platforms for instance mobile and wireless devices
    • Has age related functional disabilities and has difficulties seeing, hearing, or has difficulties using a mouse
    • Is color blind
    • Is blind and therefore needs assistive technology for reading aloud (such as a screenreader).
    • Is visually impaired and therefore has a need to enlarge text without loosing track of things
    • Is motor impaired and therefore has difficulties using mouse and keyboard
    • Is hearing impaired or deaf and therefore has dificulties understanding digitized sound and speech if there is no text version available
    • Has cognitive functional disabilities and have problems with complexity and information overload.

    Up to 25% of all webusers are affected by accessibility problems.

    Source: Danish Center for Accessibility, 2004. For those of you fluent in Danish I have included a copy of the original article.

    What is new to me is users with “technological disabilities” as well as users with “traditional” functional disabilities are taken into account here. According to US resources, about 12% has a functional disability (disabilitystatistics.org).

    According to these numbers, at least 13% of the population have technological disabilities (the number is likely higher as some users have probably both a functional and a technological disability).

    Controversial or conservative?

    25% seems like a lot of users to have problems on a website. I expect you to be thinking “that number is simply too high”. But as I think about it, I wonder if it’s really high enough.

    First of all, the 12% of users with a functional disability has been known for ages. Low vision users must be able to enlarge text. Blind users must be able to use screenreaders. Motor impaired users can be helped by providing larger active zones (easier to target). And so on and so forth.

    The users with technical disabilities are extremely interesting to me. Often we design and test for specific browsers, specific screen resolutions, specific screens, and specific internet connections. Often these combination grows and requires tremendous testing efforts.

    Obviously we can never test for any combination of these.

    What if your user decides to connect a laptop in his car via a slow cell-phone connection and have a screenreader reading your content aloud? This is of course an extreme situation, and you should never design a website for extreme situations only.

    Jakob Nielsen recently connected accessibility issues with usability issues as he compared the user experience between mobile users and low-vision users:

    An analogy: if you are working on your company’s mobile strategy, it’s not enough to ensure that your Web pages display on a cell phone screen. Such technical accessibility will do nothing to make mobile users use your site. We know from our study of early WAP phones that users refuse to use content and services that aren’t designed for optimal usability on the small screen. Unless you ensure that people can easily use your site’s mobile version, your efforts will be a complete failure. If it takes them forever to get content or if they constantly get lost, you won’t be on their phones anymore.

    As with low-vision users, mobile devices can offer only a limited amount of information at any one time. And, while exact design guidelines differ according to the context, user reactions are the same: if it’s too cumbersome to navigate the site or understand the content, people will leave. The simple fact that it displays correctly in a screen magnifier is not nearly enough to make people use the site and read your information.

    Also in the Danish study, I miss two important user groups:

    RSS feed readers have gained a tremendous popularity. Back in November, we discovered that most of our traffic came from feed readers.

    The other user group is a particular blind user: Google. Google knows only of the text in our pages. For a typical e-commerce site, search engines will generate approximately half of the traffic and revenue.

    In my opinion we’re much higher than 25%. Maybe even on 50% or higher. I think Jeffrey Veen offered the most extreme point of view in his presentation on Web Essentials 2005:

    Nobody sees your web site the way you expect.

    Few use your content the way you intend.

    Everything you create online is being ripped apart and recombined with other stuff by thousands of curious geeks.

    Or at least, it should be.

    I really recommend that you check out the presentation mp3 and pdf slides. He’s really a great speaker that gets his message out.

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      42 Responses to “25% of all web users are disabled”

      1. UXPlog Says:

        One of four web users are disabled

        As a followup on Luis’ article “banking accessibility, I thought I’d post my thoughts on a Danish study that counts 25% of all web users as having accessibility problems on your website. I posted it on Justaddwater.dk to make it…

      2. WebWord » Blog Archive » 25% of all web users are disabled Says:

        [...] Read the posting: One of four web users are disabled users… [...]

      3. Barry Welford Says:

        I think you’ve got to say that much more than 25% of websites are handicapped or visibility-challenged. It’s the websites that want to communicate. So it’s not the web users who are disadvantaged but the websites.

        I think this is particularly true for websites designed only for Internet Explorer that break in Mozilla Firefox and other standards-compliant browsers. Depending on the market segment, more than 25% of visitors will be using Firefox, Opera or some similar browser and will not be able to appreciate the website. Ok they’re deprived of the experience but the bigger loser is the website.

      4. at Putting people first Says:

        [...] Read full post [...]

      5. justaddwater.dk | Says:

        [...] More numbers show up that indicate back up my claim that 25% of your users are disabled. (”disabled” to me is physical as for instance a visual impairment, and technological as using a small screen or wireless device) [...]

      6. peregrine Says:

        Barry Welford’s point is a very good one! Yes we must design websites with more than passing consideration for people with disabilities … and we must recognize that failing to do so will cause the owner of the website to reach fewer people. To maximize the customer base, the principles of Universal Design and standards compliance should prevail.

        Those principles are evolving steadily, and should be settling down to some tried-and-true certainties just about any time now. Then we’ll wait another 10 or 20 years for everyone to recognize the value of this standardization: “Oh, you mean we’ll communicate better if we learn to speak the same language?”

      7. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

        Barry and peregrine have a good point. Most websites are handicapped. I like the up-side-down view. This is actually very similar to the WASP initiative (promoting web standards). For now, I’ll leave that angle up to you to pursue.

        My point in this article is the other way around. I want to emphasize on the end users. A big part of them are disabled. Saying that websites that don’t support them are handicapped; that’s OK with me. Excellent point!

      8. ivogomes.com » 25% dos utilizadores web são deficientes Says:

        [...] Para saberem mais, leiam este artigo onde os autores (Jesper Rønn-Jensen e Thomas Watson Steen) fazem referência também a artigos de Jakob Nielsen e Jeffrey Veen sobre a usabilidade e acessibilidade de dispositivos para pessoas com deficiências. [...]

      9. Dan Says:

        “technical disability” is perhaps a euphemism for “poor usability” — I like the idea of referring to the site as disabled, rather than the user. I am frustrated daily in visiting sites that are designed for IE only. Think of the effort and thought that goes into a web site — I bet the designer(s) would feel pretty silly knowing that work is going for naught much of the time. Why not spend that valuable time making sure the page works for the broadest swath of users, instead of fluffing it up with a bunch of eye candy that adds nothing to the content?

      10. Juan Ulloa Says:

        I would prefer not to refer to a user as being disabled simply because of their limiations of the technology they use to access the web. Like prior posters have mentioned, this is more of a limitation of the website rather than the user.

      11. justaddwater.dk | Justaddwater.dk January 2006 Statistics Says:

        [...] One of four web users are disabled users (238 visitors) [...]

      12. Usability: 25% Of Web Users Diasabled - Gadgetizer.com Says:

        [...] [Sources: Justaddwater.dk, [...]

      13. Beyond Caffeine » Target Falls Short Says:

        [...] Simple changes. Any web developer worth their salt could manage those changes quickly. Apparently Target either lacks those kinds of web developers, lacks motivation to please their customers, or blatantly has disregard for the 25% of all web users who are disabled. None of those are exactly what I would consider good options. [...]

      14. BlindSurfer blogt » Eén op vier internetters ondervindt toegankelijkheidsproblemen Says:

        [...] Volgens een Deense studie ondervindt één op vier internetgebruikers toegankelijkheidsproblemen op het internet. Niet enkel bezoekers met een functiebeperking (blind, slechtziend, kleurenblind, (al dan niet tijdelijk) fysiek beperkt, dyslectisch etc.) worden hiertoe gerekend, maar ook mensen met een ‘technische’ beperking (alternatieve user agents zoals PDA’s, GSM’s, oude of trage hard- en software. De cijfers lijken heel aannemelijk als je de samenvatting van de studie leest en je zou je zelfs de vraag kunnen stellen of het niet de websites zijn die kreupel zijn. [...]

      15. justaddwater.dk | 25% disabled web users picked up by Steve Krug Says:

        [...] Steve Krug refers to “25% of all web users are disabled“. Steve Krug. I’m amazed! [...]

      16. justaddwater.dk | Justaddwater.dk February 2006 Statistics Says:

        [...] One of four web users are disabled users (329 visitors) [...]

      17. Jacqui Says:

        Disability Studies 101 (briefly):
        There’s a medical model of disability, which says that people (in this case, users) are made wrong. Disability rights activists hate that model. There’s also a social model of disability, which states that structures, computers, society are made wrong. The statement you make here seems to show that you follow a medical model of disability, but I find it fascinating that some of your commenters see that there’s really no need to make the separation between the users who own computers that can’t cope with their blindness, say, and the users who own computers that can’t deal with a site made for IE.

      18. Formed Function » Blog Archive » 1 op de 4 gebruikers is gehandicapt Says:

        [...] http://justaddwater.dk/2006/01/20/one-of-four-web-users-are-disabled-users/ [...]

      19. Ricardo Augusto | » They don’t care if you’re disabled. Yes, they don’t care! Says:

        [...] I honestly can’t understand this:Or this:No. I don’t. Nothing. Niecas. Nada. What’s that? O? o? 0? ()? L? I? |? 1? C? OMG!Okay! They show an alternative below this ugly picture: a handy link to hear the sound of the numbers. What if I don’t have an speaker system? What if I am deaf? What if I can’t install any media plugin to hear the sound?You may have seen these ugly ones around on the web. It’s a validation proccess to avoid automated scripts to corrupt their system, and whatever.The reason for their existance is to avoid spam bots, spiders, crawlers and many other trash. But I’m not a bot, I’m human (I wonder, sometimes). I may suffer of blindness, deafness. And they ask me to decrypt those strange characters in order to validate my login. They do this because of that 25% of disable users of the web they don’t care! It’s one in four users. It’s 1000 in 4000. A million in 4 millions. That’s a lot! And they don’t care!Come on! I want to login! Isn’t that enough that I choose their service? They want to prove I’m not blind? Or that I don’t have any other kind of necessity?I’m asking any expert on spam or programming here: does a spider-bot can recognize the shapes on this picture? I’m wondering if this extreme caution is because a very advanced and popular program that can recognize those characters, and do the mess they want, so the shapes need to be random and dizzy. Anyway, this isn’t a reason to avoid users to enter their e-mail, or chat rooms, or home banking.I wrote a e-mail to them. Asking why this should like that. Let’s see what they say. [...]

      20. dominik Says:

        Hi Jesper, I have translated your article into polish. It is published on my blog about accessibility.

      21. justaddwater.dk | Blog Usability: Our Most Popular Content Says:

        [...] 25% of all web users are disabled [...]

      22. Pela boa experiência do usuário portador de deficiência » Webinsider Says:

        [...] na frente para atingir um público que pode chegar a 25% do total de usuários de internet, segundo pesquisa do Centro Dinamarquês para a [...]

      23. » Indicados da vez- Web Bem Feita - Usabilidade, Acessibilidade & Afins Says:

        [...] 25% of all web users are disabled [justaddwater] – Artigo em ingl

      24. Colors of Blogging — K|2 Says:

        [...] I got here, everyone loves black – so I kind of digging the fact that black is my favourite color. Did you know that approximately 25% of all internet users are blind, visually or physically impaired…? So why pick a color that can make your reader struggle to read? Ok, I am not young anymore, [...]

      25. Christopher Vigliotti’s Blog » Blog Archive » Accessible Video On The Web: Closed Captioning Says:

        [...] you should care because you want your video to reach as wide an audience as possible. According to this post, an estimated 25% of all internet users are disabled. And if you are working on a project for the [...]

      26. Camp Says:

        As a handicapped person with limited eye sight usability is a key issue for me. Many sites don’t care about these problems so my work on the internet is very limited. Rss feeds are really helpful, it’s all organized and emphasis is on the information, not graphics that only make problems for me.

      27. 25% of all web users are disabled « blind dates Says:

        [...] 25% of all web users are disabled Did you know that up to 25% of all visitors on your website have some kind of accessibility problem. Some of your users may be blind, deaf, dyslectic, has learning disabilities or motoric disabilities such as schlerosis, parkinson’s disease, etc. A so-called functional disability. http://justaddwater.dk/2006/01/20/one-of-four-web-users-are-disabled-users/ [...]

      28. Austin Says:

        It is hard to remember, when building and designing pages and websites, how many issues there in trying to make your information as accessible as possible. Hopefully research like this will continue to be done!

      29. Internet Strategist Says:

        One other group of users who prefer not to visit Flash sites are those who are on Internet plans that charge by bandwidth used. We generally surf with Flash blocked. Landing on a page full of gray boxes with arrows and very little else is not likely to keep us on your site!

        In some countries users pay by the minute or by bandwidth used. In rural areas sometimes the only high speed access available is satellite. When we go over our limits HughesNet DISABLES our Internet connection for 24 hours as a penalty! Talk about bad for business, income and productivity!

        I am publishing a post which I will link to this comment that offers more reasons why Flash is simply NOT a good way to build a Web site. If you already have a Flash site or really want one at the very least offer an html version too.

      30. The Serious Drawbacks to Using FLASH for Web Design | GROWMAP.COM Says:

        [...] 25% of All Web Users Are Disabled [...]

      31. Handicapped Equipment Says:

        The population of disabled users has probably increased a lot since this study came out. It still amazes me, how much of the websites leave out alt and title tags that are used to describe web images. Makes it very hard to navigate and get internet without these html tags.

      32. muffin9129 Says:

        This is something that I had not considered, but I agree completely. Recently, I connected my computer to by television, and I was unable to ‘see’ a lot of text, sound and imagery on many sites. Of course this is a smaller issue, but I can just imagine how hard it is for people that have disabilities. What an interesting post, and something that needs to be addressed before technology completely takes over.

      33. BenFrank Says:

        In my opinion 25% is too much.But if it is so serious mesures should be taken to make their access more easier.Thanks for the interesting post.

      34. Tacoma Divorce Says:

        I wholeheartedly agree that technical disabilities are probably more common then physical disabilities. However, I fail to see the correlation between technical vs. physical disabilities. Physical disabilities are problems an individual can not rectify whereas technical disabilities are up to the user just not wanting to upgrade their hardware/software. To the author, your argument is based on 2 different groups of people. After rereading it several times I can not see where to connect the 2 groups in reference to your article and the research you provide??

      35. Siverek, Siverek Haber Says:

        This is something that I had not considered, but I agree completely. Recently, I connected my computer to by television, and I was unable to ’see’ a lot of text, sound and imagery on many sites. Of course this is a smaller issue, but I can just imagine how hard it is for people that have disabilities. What an interesting post, and something that needs to be addressed before technology completely takes over.

      36. kpss Says:

        I would prefer not to refer to a user as being disabled simply because of their limiations of the technology they use to access the web. Like prior posters have mentioned, this is more of a limitation of the website rather than the user.

      37. CFX Says:

        Not sure if this claim can be true, if we took the the UK 60 Million people of that 6 million are disabled. Thats 10%. If we took that 25% did have access to the internet which is quite possible due to age and not owning a PC etc… then this is 5%.

        Most website are poorly put together as it is so easy to get software to build sites with little knowledge, also this study does not sound right at all.

        Colour blindness does not factor into web design at all. I am colour blind and i can view any website. I am so colour blind only got on page 2 of the opticians test. I am also dyslexic (who ever came up with the spelling for a learning difficult like this should be shot.).

      38. can sıkıntısı Says:

        Website business is not easy to do all the work and this work continues to webmasterlas.

      39. Brunson Says:

        It is amazing that 25%, higher than I thought. Fortunately things will change rapidly with better Internet access, improved designs, and I even read that they now have devices helping blind people to use computers.

      40. jassie_wu08 Says:

        25% of all web users are disabled??..hmm hard to believe,.. well, why not, if there are devices now that can help disabled people to use computers. Interesting! I look forward to knowing these devices… it’s good thing to know that every individual has the chance to explore the wonders in this age of computers..

      41. kpss Says:

        I think you’ve got to say that much more than 25% of websites are handicapped or visibility-challenged. It’s the websites that want to communicate. So it’s not the web users who are disadvantaged but the websites.

      42. Slate Blank Re-Think Web Design | The Downsides of Flash Says:

        [...] recent version at that time, they may opt not to view your page. Also, people using older computers might not be able to update to a newer version of flash, meaning that they can never see your [...]