Researchers at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Public Policy and Research Institute just released results from the second Barriers to Digital Inclusion study, which show how often commercial websites and apps continue to exclude blind and low-vision customers. In November 2023, 20 participants kept diaries for 10 days, documenting how often they encountered digital accessibility barriers and what happened when they encountered such roadblocks.

We found that each participant experienced an average of 17.7 barriers during the 10-day period, or about 12 per week. They described how these obstructions made doing things like holiday shopping, booking air travel, or filling out medical forms without help harder or impossible. Experiencing accessibility barriers caused these tasks to take about twice as long as they would on fully accessible platforms. Digital kiosks, like those used to check in for flights or pay for purchases, were especially challenging to use. Although participants could resolve most barriers independently or with the help of a sighted person, in about 20% of instances, participants could not find a solution and had to give up on a digital task.

This research comes as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has just published its final rule on web accessibility under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This rule requires state and local governments to make their websites and apps accessible. AFB celebrates this important ruling, but there is still a long way to go before the barriers identified in this study are removed. The blindness community is still waiting for a rule under Title III, which would mandate accessible commercial websites and apps such as those used for online shopping, banking, or food delivery. AFB urges website, app, and kiosk developers, as well as policymakers and computing teachers, to review our full research report and to consider our recommendations for making digital information and services fully accessible.