Accessibility and disability: UK research and statistics
We often use lots of statistics from Scope and other research to help us show:
- why accessibility is important
- how it affects disabled people
- the barriers disabled people face
But it can be a lot of work to collect that information together. Where do you start looking? We want to make it easy to share stats that will:
- explain why your organisation needs to do accessibility
- show how many of your potential customers might be disabled
- help us raise awareness about accessibility
We’ve collected together what we think are important and useful statistics. You can share them with your colleagues, clients, customers and anyone else you think they can support.
We’d also recommend looking at these stats in relation to the social model of disability (Scope).
Our disabled population
Here are some statistics on how many people are disabled in the UK:
- 16 million disabled people, that’s 1 in 4 people
- 23% working age adults are disabled
- 45% of pension age adults are disabled
- 32% of households in England have at least 1 disabled person
- 37.9% of households in Wales have at least 1 disabled person
Different impairments and conditions
Digital inaccessibility can affect a range of people and create barriers.
It’s important to understand the different ways disabled people access digital products. Whether that’s:
- using a screen reader
- tabbing through with a keyboard
- needing plain English to understand information
- using captions for videos
Accessibility is not just designing for one impairment or condition. It’s designing inclusively to meet a range of needs.
So here are some stats on how many people in the UK have specific conditions and impairments:
- around 1.5 million people have a learning disability
- estimated 1 in 10 people have dyslexia
- estimated 2 million people are living with sight loss
- 12 million have hearing loss greater than 25dBHL
- estimated 151,000 people use British Sign Language
Attitudes to disability
Attitudes to disability affect how people think about accessibility. And how much they care about inclusion.
- 60% of people underestimate how many disabled people there actually are
- 75% of people think of disabled people in general as needing to be cared for
- 32% think disabled people are not as productive as non-disabled people
- 13% hardly ever or never think of disabled people as the same as everyone else
It’s important to change attitudes to inspire social change and an inclusive working culture. Disabled people have so much untapped potential due to other people’s attitudes.
We spend our lives cultivating an intuitive creativity because we are forced to navigate a world that isn’t built for our bodies.
Liz Jackson, Disabled List
We should not be forced to navigate a world full of unnecessary barriers.
Unsurprisingly, how non-disabled people view disability affects how disabled people feel:
- 49% of working age adults feel excluded from society because of their condition or impairment
- 41% working age disabled people do not feel valued by society
Access to digital technology and services
Digital technology and access to online services can be essential for disabled people to live independently:
“78% of disabled people say that having access to digital technologies is helpful or very helpful.”
Unfortunately, digital and online barriers stop disabled people accessing information, products, services, and apps.
- disabled people are over 50% more likely to face barriers to accessing digital and online services than non-disabled people
- if you have an impairment you are 3 times more likely not to have the skills to access devices and get online
The WebAIM annual accessibility analysis of the top 1 million homepages shows that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) errors are slowly going up. Businesses need to do more to change this and become more accessible.
The 2021 analysis shows that 97.4% of homepages had detectable accessibility errors. This is down slightly from 98.1% in February 2020.
The 5 most common WCAG failures were:
- Low contrast, 86% of homepages
- Missing alt text for images, 61% of homepages
- Empty links, 51% of homepages
- Missing form input labels, 54% of homepages
- Empty buttons, 27% of homepages
The spending power of disabled people
The collective spending power of disabled people and their household continues to grow. It’s estimated to be worth £274 billion per year to UK business. The research also showed how much industry lost by not being accessible:
- High street shops: £267 million
- Restaurants, pubs and clubs: £163 million
- Supermarkets: £501 million
- Energy companies: £44 million
- Phone and internet providers: £49 million
- Transport providers: £42 million
- Banks or building societies: £935 million
The online spending power of people with access needs is around £24.8 billion per year to UK business.
Financial loss to businesses
Businesses lose money from disabled customers due to inaccessible websites and products. In 2016, research showed that:
- 7 in 10 disabled customers said they will click away from a website that they find difficult to use
- 83% of participants with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible
- 86% have chosen to pay more for a product from an accessible website rather than buy the same product for less from a website that was harder to use.
- 4 million people abandoned a retail website because of the barriers
- an estimated loss of £11.75 billion comes from the ‘Click-Away Pound’
In 2019, the Click-Away Pound has grown to £17.1 billion.
According to Accenture’s analysis of the Disability Equality Index (DEI), companies that prioritise digital inclusion:
- are twice as likely to have higher shareholder returns
- 28% higher revenue
- see a 30% better performance in economic profit margins
The DEI is a tool that gives US businesses an objective score based on their disability inclusion policies and practices.
Main barriers within organisations
The biggest barriers to adopting accessibility within an organisation include:
- Lack of clear ownership within the organisation 43%
- lack of ‘the right people or skills’ 16%
- Finding it hard to justify the spend 11%
- Not sure what accessibility actually means 10%
- Senior leadership not convinced of the benefits 6%
The top 2 incentives for becoming accessible:
- Universal benefits of accessibility 52%
- Avoiding legal action 27%
And a huge 65% of organisations have not tested their websites with real disabled people. Findings based on the responses of more than 100 UK digital professionals.
Accessibility specialist at Scope