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Harris Poll accessibility survey finds one in three Americans say they either have or had a chronic medical condition or a disability

By Melany Stroupe

As part of recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 20, University of Phoenix commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey in April 2020 of 2,063 U.S. adults to better understand their perceptions of disability and online accessibility.

According to the survey, 33% of Americans said they either had or have a chronic medical condition or disability. Additionally, 46% of employed adults have asked for at least one workplace accommodation due to disability. With disabilities affecting so many, 82% of American adults see disability as an aspect of diversity. This belief is consistent regardless of if the person does (83%) or does not have a disability (82%).

“Experiencing a disability is something that can happen to any of us at some point in our lives,” said Kelly Hermann, vice president of accessibility, equity and inclusion at University of Phoenix. “Often we see disability as a medical condition rather than another facet of diversity. It is encouraging to know that Americans view disability through the lens of diversity, so that we can all be mindful to provide accommodations for equal access and opportunities.”

Over the past year, the world has become even more reliant on the internet thanks to the pandemic. More than half of American adults (52%) increased their participation in online activities due to COVID-19, with 59% of those with a disability increasing their online activity. In addition, 42% of employed adults, who typically went to a workplace, worked from home during the pandemic.

Often accommodations for disabilities are perceived as things like ramps, accessible parking spaces or audible pedestrian signs. But digital accessibility is just a critical because technology is essential for everyday life, be it in the classroom, workplace or when shopping for consumer products and services. Digital accessibility means those with a disability have equal access to information and have the same opportunity to produce and share information. Most American adults (89%) believe companies should offer access and reasonable accommodations where they do business.

“We no longer live in a world where we communicate with paper,” said Hermann. “Most of our interactions are digital and that is why business and educators need to ensure they are offering the proper software tools and formatting their content to remove barriers for individuals with disabilities. Take stock of your digital content to ensure it is accessible and be diligent as technology is constantly evolving.”

Kelly Hermann shares the following tips to improve the accessibility of digital content.

Be careful using color

Often, we use color for emphasis in our text, but consider people with shade-blindness and color-blindness. Color should not be the only way you communicate meaning. Patterns are another way to convey information and there should be enough contrast between the color of the text and the background to be sure it can be read easily. Avoid red, green and pink as they can be more difficult to detect.

Add descriptive alternate text to images

Describe your images beyond just using captions by making sure you add an alternative text description to the image. Alternate text is used within an HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. Writing alternate text will help those who use screen readers. This can be done for every image in the image properties.

Describe hyperlinks

Adding descriptions to hyperlinks allows visually impaired users to read digital text with a speech synthesizer. Avoid short cuts like “click here” or “read more.” Remember, screen readers will not pick up visual formatting like color, bold and highlighting so a description is crucial. Also, avoid full URLs as they can be confusing and make it difficult to navigate website links. Rather use a “vanity link” that is easier to read and remember.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between April 16 – 20, 2021 among 2,063 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, of which 1,034 were employed. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact

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