Screen Reader Survey Results from WebAIM

posted by Geert Leyseele
11 February 2009

One of the more challenging areas of web design is accessibility. We have seen a screen reader in action a few times and it is very interesting to watch because it makes it more real and triggers a process to think about it some more during web development.

WebAIM survey

The fine people of Web Accessibly in Mind conducted a survey during December 2008 through January 2009 to get know more about the preferences of screen reader users. They received 1121 valid responses that gives us some guidance.

The results

Before we look a little close you should understand that these numbers aren't the absolute truth, but serve as a valuable guidance. Let's dig a little deeper into these figures.

Which of the following best describes you?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
I use a screen reader all the time due to a disability100689.7%
I use a screen reader part of the time due to a disability433.8%
I use a screen reader often, but do not have a disability that requires a screen reader131.2%
I use a screen reader occasionally to perform accessibility evaluation595.3%
Disabilities Reported
Which of the following disabilities do you have?
Response# of Respondents% of Respondents
Low Vision/Visually-Impaired17715.8%
No disability605.4%

Users could select multiple options. 118 respondents (10.4%) reported multiple disabilities. 52 (4.6%) reported blindness and low vision/visually impaired. 33 respondents (2.9%) reported being both deaf and blind.

Computer and Screen Reader Proficiency
Please rate your computer proficiency
Response% of Respondents
Please rate your screen reader proficiency
Response% of Respondents

The responses for computer proficiency and screen reader proficiency were similar. Those who use screen readers for evaluation rated their screen reader proficiency much lower (80% chose Beginner or Intermediate) than those that always use screen readers (only 37% chose Beginner or Intermediate).

Screen Reader Usage

Of the 1121 respondents, 74% use JAWS, 23% use Window-Eyes, 8% use NVDA, and 6% use VoiceOver. While several other screen readers were reported, these were the most prominently reported. Individual versions of screen readers are not yet computed, but generally the majority of users are using the most up-to-date version of their screen reader.

Screen Reader Updates
How soon do you update your screen reader after a new version is released?
Upgrade Window% of Respondents
First 6 months25%
6-12 months9%
1-2 years9%
2-3 years4%
3+ years6%
No response6%

This was the most surprising part of the survey because it was popular believe that screen reader users are slow to update. Of course this relates to the people who took this survey and maybe doesn’t represent screen reader users in general. Still it is interesting to see that 74,6% updates within a year.


The next part really shows how important it is to structure your documents with HTML headings. HTML headings, created with the h1-h6 elements serve more than one purpose in our humble opinion as they also improve readability for people without a disability. However the most important reason is that using real headings improves accessibility. To get an idea on how screen reader users use them in the real world you should watch this video showing the Importance of HTML Headings for Accessibility. The video shows you how a screen reader user navigates a document by skipping from one heading to another.

I navigate by headings...
Response% of Respondents
Whenever they're available52%
No Response3%

Just a small part of the results

I recommend that you check out the rest of the interesting results over at the WebAIM web site. There is a lot more to be found there such as results for Flash, PDF's, repeated links etc. Another interesting piece to listen to is How do blind people use computers?.


  1. 1 Kelly Brown Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 09.09 pm

    The best information i have found exactly here. Keep going Thank you