The WebAIM Million project did the first analysis of the top million sites in February 2019. They did a second analysis in August 2019. They found that disabled people are excluded online because of accessibility problems.

How they analysed the homepages

WebAIM made a tool called WAVE stand-alone API to test the accessibility of websites. They used the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to create WAVE. These guidelines are accessibility criteria that web pages need to meet. WAVE makes it easy to see what you need to fix to meet WCAG criteria.

The WAVE tool automatically finds these issues on websites. Each issue raises a potential problem for people using assistive technology. This includes screen readers and text-to-speech (TTS) software.

The WebAIM Million analysis used the WAVE tool on the homepages of the top million websites. This means they could automatically find and count how many problems they had.

Read more about WAVE  in 6 quick tools web developers can use to test for accessibility

What is the WebAIM Million 6-month re-analysis?

The WebAIM study uses the top million websites to test the state of online accessibility. The list of the top million websites comes from the Majestic Million. Majestic SEO created this tool. The more backlinks and referrers a website has, the more important Majestic SEO considers it. The websites at the top of the Majestic Million list are:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn.

How many websites passed WCAG 2 accessibility standards?

After running the automatic WAVE tool, 2.2% of websites passed the WCAG 2 checklist in February 2019. In August 2019, only 2% of websites passed the checklist.

Which are the most common website accessibility issues?

Bar chart showing most common WCAG failures.

WCAG Failure Type % of home pages in February % of home pages in August
Low contrast text 85.3% 86.1%
Missing alternative text for images 68.0% 67.9%
Empty links 58.1% 58.9%
Missing form input labels 52.8% 53.2%
Missing document language 33.1% 30.5%

Which issues do most websites fail on?

1. Low contrast text

It is easier to read text when there’s high contrast between the background colour  and the text colour. If there is not enough contrast, people who are partially sighted or colourblind may not be able to read the text at all.

WCAG guidelines say there must be a contrast ratio of at least:

  • 4.5:1 for normal text which is under 18pt or 14pt bold.
  • 3:1 for large text, graphics and things like buttons. Large text is above 18pt or 14pt bold.
Screenshot from WebAIM's Colour Contrast Checker website with example text in yellow and purple showing a pass.
WebAIM’s Colour Contrast Checker tool

WebAIM’s Contrast Checker

2. Missing alternative text for images

You should describe all your images, this is called alt-text. Alt-text helps tell screen reader and assistive technology users what’s in your image.

If an image is only for decoration, add an empty alt-text (alt=””) in the HTML. This will tell assistive technology to ignore the image.

“Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.”

1.1, WCAG 2.0 Guidelines

W3’s accessibility tutorial on images and text alternatives

3. Empty links

If a link contains no text, the function or purpose of the link will not be shown to the website visitor. For keyboard and screen reader users, this can be confusing. You can:

  • remove the link
  • provide text to explain where the link is going

WCAG guidelines on link text

4. Missing form input labels

Webpages contain form controls such as:

  • checkboxes
  • text fields
  • drop-down menus

These should all have labels that describe what they are asking the visitor to do. The HTML should include the purpose of the form control. Use the label element within HTML to associate text and explicit form elements. The ‘for’ attribute of the label should match the id of the form control.

 W3 tutorial on using the correct form input labels

5. Missing document language

In HTML, the language attribute identifies the language of the text on a page. Search engines use this information to give results that match the language of the user. Screen readers use this information to read the content with the correct pronunciation.

How to add language attributes to html tags (W3 tutorial)

Other findings

What else changed between February and August 2019? The report found:

  • Homepage errors dropped by 1%. This changed from an average of 59.7 errors a homepage February 2019, to 59.1 errors in August 2019.
  • Homepage complexity increased by 4.3% in 6 months. This changed from 783 elements a homepage in February 2019, to 816 elements in August 2019.
  • The number of websites who failed most WCAG 2 standards went up by 0.2%. This changed from 97.8% of homepages failing in February 2019, to 98% of homepages failing in August 2019.
  • Images with alternative text improved. There were 2.2% less alt-text errors found in August 2019 compared to February 2019.
  • The biggest change was an increase in ARIA usage. 60.1% of homepages included ARIA mark up in February 2019 compared to 64.5% in August 2019.

“While it is tempting to extrapolate these findings into an increase or decrease in web accessibility more broadly, using these and future data to draw trend lines over time will be more accurate.”


A 6-month comparison period is not enough to predict long term accessibility trends. But the study shows that the top million websites could be using their big budgets to do more for disabled customers online.

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