How do you convince a product manager to spend the resources on making their site accessible? The same way you convince them to build a mobile version of their website: show them how many of their users would benefit.

Site owners prioritize development based on who they see coming in the door. 25% of users are using mobile? Better build a mobile version of the website.  

If websites are going to prioritize accessibility they need to have as much information about their user base as possible. 

Unfortunately, there is no easy way for you to find an answer to this question.

This type of information is usually provided in the browser’s user agent which contains info about your browser, your OS, your location, your ISP, and whether you are on mobile or desktop. However, they don’t provide any information on whether or not you are currently running a screen reader.

Why not? While there are some technical limitations, the historical argument in the accessibility community is that it’s an invasion of privacy.

Really? How is it anymore an invasion of privacy than knowing a visitor’s ISP? The value of knowing how many visitors are using a Screen reader far outweighs any privacy concerns. It’s about awareness, and realizing there is a need.

Technical Hurdles

If we decided that surfacing whether or not a visitor is using a screen reader was a good idea, there are some difficult steps that need to be taken. The user agent, which contains all the information about the OS, browser, etc. is set by the browser. Screen readers and screen magnifiers are software that live on top of the browser, and they generally don’t talk to each other.

Bridging this gap will take cooperation between the major screen readers and browsers, which may be difficult as there is no direct benefit to either.

However the benefits, to promoting accessible design are well worth the effort.

If you know anyone working on Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or IE talk to them about the need to work with major screen readers in order to support user agents.

Hacky solution

You can get a rough idea of how many visitors using screen readers your site gets by counting how many user navigate your site without using the mouse (adding an event listener to mouse clicks). Thanks to Bryan Garavanta for the tip.

Prioritizing Accessibility: It’s about analytics