How compliance with web accessibility standards shapes the experiences of users with and without disabilities


Benefits for all user groups is one of the most prominent motivations to provide accessible information and services on the web. Designing digital technologies in a more inclusive manner for users with sensory, motor, or cognitive impairments enhances their overall quality. In practice, work on web accessibility often relies on complying with standards. But whether standards lead to improved usability and a satisfying user experience for all user groups is controversial. The present study aims at deepening our understanding of how compliance with web accessibility standards shapes the experiences of both users with and without disabilities. In a randomised controlled experiment, 66 participants with visual impairments and 65 participants without visual impairments solved tasks on an online shop built with either low (NA) or high (AA) conformance to web accessibility standards. The results show no statistically significant effects on outcomes related to usability and user experience. However, analysis of open-ended answers suggests that participants with visual impairments reported more positive experiences, and participants without visual impairments fewer negative experiences while using the online shop conformant to web accessibility standards. We therefore recommend adopting a more differentiated perspective on what can be achieved through compliance with web accessibility standards and emphasise that conformance-based approaches should be complemented with user-centred and participatory design methods. Further, since most participants reported being experienced users and an online shop is often a familiar context, more research in other settings is required.

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies