Free and mobile screen readers on the rise

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Tuesday, 5 June 2012 16:49pm

The use of free screen reader NVDA and screen readers on mobile devices has increased significantly over the last year, according to a survey conducted by WebAim. The results of the Screen Reader User Survey, conducted in May this year, has shown that the popularity of commercial screen readers such as JAWS and Windows-Eyes have waned in the last year while use of NVDA has increased in the same period. Screen readers on mobile devices have also become more popular in the last year.

The survey, which received 1782 valid responses, was a follow-up to the original WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey of January 2009 and the follow-up survey from December 2010.

Free screen readers more popular in the last year

In the last survey results, free screen readers were shown to be increasingly popular. This trend continues to be reflected in the latest survey results, with 13.7% of respondents identifying NVDA as their primary screen reader. This is an increase from 8.6% in 2010 who said NVDA was their primary screen reader.

While JAWS is still the most popular screen reader, use of JAWS as a primary screen reader has declined from 59% in 2010 to 49%. 

The perception of free screen readers is directly related to its use. When respondents were asked the question, “Do you see free or low-cost screen readers (such as NVDA or VoiceOver) as currently being viable alternatives to commercial screen readers?” 66.5% answered “yes”. The respondents who answered “yes” to this question had experience with and use free, low-cost screen readers. Of note is the 95% of NVDA users and 98% of VoiceOver users said they found low-cost screen readers are a viable alternative to commercial screen readers.

Increase in use of screen readers on mobile devices

The use of screen readers on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has noticeably increased over the last three years. 79% of respondents indicated that they use screen readers on mobile devices, compared to only 12% three years ago.

The results also show that more people are using VoiceOver, which is the native screen reader of iOS devices. 58% said the primary mobile platform they used was the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, showing the increasing popularity of VoiceOver as a screen reader for mobile devices. In comparison, only 7.9% of the respondents said they used Android devices as their primary mobile platform. This indicates the overall effectiveness of VoiceOver as a screen reader and perhaps the lack of accessibility provided by screen readers on Android devices.

For the full results of the WebAim screen reader survey 4, visit the WebAim website. 

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