A couple of days ago I posted a tweet about us developers dropping accessibility in favour of Internet Explorer 8 support. A lot of people wanted to know what information I based my statement on. Starting to doubt my own statement, I decided to write this article to back it up.
The source I based the statement on is still there but I’ve taken some time to collect additional usage statistics on accessibility in The Netherlands. My comparison can be read below. It’s not super in depth and it’s definitely not complete, but these few numbers alone paint a very clear picture.
I’ve used Global StatCounter Data as my source. They analyse data from 15 billion page views each month across the globe.
Globally, 5% of all desktop users are browsing the web on Internet Explorer 8. If I add mobile, tablet and console data, this further lowers to 3%.
Now let’s compare these numbers to statistics on people with disabilities.
The following numbers I’ve collecting from accessibility related resources in The Netherlands. I assume, which I know creates room for fuck-ups, that these numbers might be somewhat the same around the globe. Note that my sources are in Dutch, I expect some translation service will be able to help you out if you want to confirm the data.
Data points out that approximately 700,000 people in The Netherlands are color blind to various degrees. This is 4% of the Dutch population.
On top of this there are 320,000 people which suffer a serious vision impairment (45.000 of those are blind). This group makes up approximately 2% of the population.
Now try to imagine yourself presenting visual designs to a client on an old projector, or browsing the web on a sunny beach. If you’ve got 20/20 vision, accessible color contrast ratios will benefit you.
The Dutch Labour Inspectorate estimates approximately 50% of people working in front of a display suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury. More conservative numbers point to 19%. With 2.5 million people working with computers daily that translates to some 3% of the population.
In the future you might break your arm or dislocate your shoulder. Browsing the web with your non-preferred hand will most certainly make interacting with small click areas or doing gesture based input troublesome. Make sure click areas are big and webpages can be navigated with a keyboard, your future self is depending on you.
1.3 million people in the Netherlands have low literacy skills. They have trouble understanding information if it’s not written out in a simple down to earth manner. That’s a whopping 8% of the population.
If you’ve got plans to move to another country or have to request overseas information, it would be nice if it was easy to understand. So by making sure your information is accessible for natives, you’re making it easily accessible for non natives as well.
It’s difficult to simply stack these percentages because these disability groups obviously overlap. People with cognitive problems could also have vision problems.
When we try to compare these numbers to Internet Explorer 8 usage statistics we run into trouble as well. There are people with disabilities that have to use Internet Explorer 8 to browse the web. The assistive technologies they use might not work on other browsers, or they could be working in an environment where they don’t have control over what browser they use.
It’s not an OR statement
The point of the tweet was not about choosing between Internet Explorer 8 and accessibility. If you follow a smart progressive enhancement strategy and educate your client about the web you should be able to have both. The tweet was about creating awareness of how big this group of people actually is.
These people are also your users. They want to access your information. They generate your revenue. They use modern and old browsers and you can’t filter them because they don’t show up in your analytics. They’ve got a though enough time already, by making it easy for them to access information you’re brightening their day and helping your future self in the process.
If that isn’t a good thing then I don’t know what is.