This Week in Accessibility: What we can learn from the “WebAIM Million”

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
6 min readMar 9, 2019
A human hand reaching out being drowned in a sea of pages

Summary of an accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages

This week being the syzygy of accessibility conferences, WebAIM took the opportunity to publish its accessibility analysis of the top one million web pages consisting of home pages from 730 unique top-level domains, .com (521,316), .org (76,489), and .net (39,757) being the most common and 6,010 distinct .edu home pages.

It’s a long, very detailed, research-oriented, high-quality study. If you are the kind of person who geeks out on stats, read it at its source. Otherwise, here are what I think are the high points. Or low points, depending on how you view the issue.

  • There was an average of 59.6 errors per home page.
  • Users with disabilities would expect to encounter software detectable errors on 1 in every 13 elements with which they engage.
  • 97.8% of home pages had software detectable WCAG 2.0 Level AA non-compliance

While these results look bad, in actuality, the true results are probably much worse for the following reasons:

  1. WAVE as awesome as it is can only detect about 30 % of WCAG 2.0 Level AA errors.
  2. If an organization doesn’t care enough about accessibility to clean up their easy-to-find issues that can be uncovered with almost no effort, chances are they aren’t doing testing with screen readers, assistive technology hardware, or putting any effort into making sure things that require extensive manual testing (positive tab index values anyone?)
  3. The 10 new Level AA web standards from 2.1 Level AA were not included in the review
  4. Mobile web as a platform was not, since you can’t run WAVE over a mobile website. All identified desktop errors would likely also be visible on mobile, and there would likely be additional mobile specific errors on iPhone (especially plus sized iphones), iPad, and Android as well.

There is a lot of accessibility low hanging fruit out there

The most widely reported issue by far was that > 90 % of pages were missing skip links (AKA bypass blocks)

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Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.