WebAIM screen reader survey reveals interesting results

Headphones resting on a laptop next to the WebAIM logo

by Joe Lonergan

The WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey released its findings last week, Over 1,500 people took part in the study, which was conducted between December 2023 and January 2024.

We had a look at the results and the most interesting findings showed a growing use of the NVDA screen reader among PC users and Apple’s iPhone remaining the top smartphone of choice for respondents. JAWS maintained its position as the primary desktop and laptop screen reader for 40.5% of survey respondents despite experiencing a slight drop in usage in favor of NVDA which now serves as the primary tool for 37.7% of people who responded to the survey.

Interestingly, the preference for screen readers varies geographically, with JAWS leading in North America and Australia, while NVDA finds its stronghold in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, again the free screen reader outpaces JAWS in overall usage, so it is official NVDA is now more popular in Europe then JAWS, at least as far as this survey is concerned.

VoiceOver on Mac usage remained steady at 9.7%. The survey also showed that people are using screen readers more on mobile devices with 91.3% using screen readers on such devices, with VoiceOver being the most popular at 70.6%.

The survey highlighted captcha as a major hurdle for users, illustrating the ongoing struggle to find the right balance between security and accessibility. This issue becomes particularly apparent during the sign-up process for services or social media platforms, such as Discord, where captcha poses a barrier. However, once users overcome this obstacle and complete the sign-up process, the overall experience tends to be positive.

Another free open-source screen reader that made it into the survey is Orca for Linux, but this looks to be more of a niche product rather than mainstream as it is only used by a little over 2% of respondents but even fewer responded to say they were using Fusion which is a mix of JAWS and ZoomText. We do know from experience that Fusion is a popular program for users in the workplace but may not be as popular for home use.

Overall, I think the survey shows that free and open software seems to be catching up with paid offers. There might be other reasons for this too such as price and the improvements in built-in screen readers such as Narrator for Windows and VoiceOver for Mac. All the same, it is interesting to see the trends going towards  NVDA and it looks like people are comfortable to at least try it out and use it for their primary screen reader.

For now, personally, I still prefer JAWS with the NVDA screen reader coming in a close 2nd place.

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