Jeopardy to Accessibility — Part One

Dave Cunningham
6 min readJun 23, 2020
Roger Craig impressing his competitors
Roger Craig on his way to becoming Jeopardy champion

When American Roger Craig entered the hit TV quiz show Jeopardy. He was faced with the question “How can I learn everything?”. He knew this wasn’t possible but Roger’s data science background helped him become a Jeopardy champion.

This got me thinking how would Roger Craig approach the topic of accessibility. So the obvious thing to do was to ask him, so I did.

Tweet asking Roger Craig how he would learn about Accessibility

Roger liked my Tweet but unsurprisingly didn’t give me an answer. So the rest of this post is based on my predictions.

At first look the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are daunting. They feel out of reach and most people aren’t accessibility experts. Yet we have a responsibility to get things right. If we don’t we exclude people, nobody deserves to be excluded.

Roger Craig‘s (predicted) approach to accessibility

For Jeopardy Craig got access to all 211,000 questions that had previously been asked on the show.

He grouped them to find out which where statistically common. Calculated the odds of each topic would come up and then focussed on the gaps in his knowledge.

Craig realised the questions were wrote in such a way that the general public had a fair chance of knowing the answer. After all Jeopardy is an entertainment show on primetime TV.

“They learn every capital in the world but really you don’t need too.”

So lets see what happens when we apply Roger’s methods to accessibility

So here are the 3 steps we’ll look at:

  1. Download the guidelines
  2. Figure out which guidelines are the most statistically significant
  3. Which guidelines are we failing on the most

1. Download the guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are available from the W3C website.

  • There are 14,079 words on the overview page for WCAG.
  • On average that is 2 hours reading time
  • There are 300 links to more in depth rules on each guideline
  • A lot of initialisms and numbers are used WAI, W3C, ARIA, A, AA, AAA, WCAG, SECTION 508, POUR etc..

2. Figure out which guidelines are the most statistically significant

The most common accessibility issues found on websites

There are a lot of great studies already out there. WebAim do an annual accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages. Which shows us that 98.1% fail WCAG guidelines.

With the most common issues found this year being:

  • low contrast text
  • missing alternative text
  • empty links
  • missing form input labels
  • empty buttons and missing document language

Disability statistics in the UK

From Sport England’s report we can see that in the UK the breakdown of disabilities is as such:

  • physical or motor — 59%
  • dyslexia — 14.4%
  • low vision — 9.8%
  • deaf — 8.8%

People often talk about screen readers when we talk about accessibility. As we can see from the stats physical and motor issues are much more common.

The dos and don’t by disability

The dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility posters from the Home Office Digital team are a go to resource for designers. They give us a great insight into the top issues by disability.

Physical or motor disabilities poster. Sorry Medium don’t allow enough alt text, but you can click the link in the caption.
Home offices poster of the dos an don’t of accessibility

The types of websites that people struggle with

Scope’s big hack
The big hack done by Scope shows us the most common poor digital experiences for people with disabilities.

  • Grocery shopping — 39%
  • Trains tickets — 38%
  • Clothing and footwear — 36%,
  • Food or drink to takeaway — 30%.

How people use websites in different ways

In 2016 the UK Government surveyed their audience on the types of assistive tech they used to access their websites.

  • Screen magnifier — 30%
  • Screen reader — 29%
  • Speech recognition — 18%
  • Readability — 15%
  • Other — 8%

Most people who zoom or magnify don’t associate themselves as using assistive tech. Therefore magnification should probably be a lot higher.

Screen magnification
80% of people use magnification at less than 400% according to WebAim’s low vision survey. With the vast majority using no specialised software to zoom in.

Screen readers
WebAim’s annual survey of screen readers shows us that almost 70% of people using screen readers scan the headings whilst finding content. We know that pretty much everybody scans websites and headings are a great way to do this.

We can safely say headings are really really really important for everyone.

Framing accessibility through the lens of statistics.

Based on the data so far we could make a generalised statement such as:

People with motor impairments struggle to buy food, clothing and train tickets online. if the headings aren’t clear, things aren’t spaced out or big enough to click and there is a need to type a lot.

And for our digital colleagues:

Designers often don’t consider colour contrast, content editors don’t describe images or provide well written headings. And front end developers don’t use semantic coding standards and frequently miss out the document language.

Top 25 accessibility issues

Based on the mix of reports we pulled together a list of 25 accessibility issues, here are the biggest needs for people with disabilities:

  1. Headings are scannable & give context
  2. Good colour contrast on text
  3. Images are described if needed
  4. Links & buttons are descriptive
  5. Forms use labelled descriptions
  6. Document has a language set
  7. Hit area isn’t too small for big fingers
  8. Form fields spacing is sufficient
  9. Lines lengths aren’t too long or too short: 45–75 characters per line is acceptable
  10. Tab order makes sense
  11. There are no keyboard traps
  12. Provide another way to do something (e.g contact via phone, letter or email)
  13. Use images and diagrams to support text
  14. Align text to the left and keep a consistent layout
  15. Keep content short clear and simple
  16. Use HTML not PDFs or Word
  17. Combination of colours shapes and text to convey meaning
  18. Follow a logical linear layout
  19. Write plain English
  20. Use subtitles or provide transcripts
  21. Focus states are clearly visible
  22. Landmarks are descriptive
  23. The content makes sense zoomed in
  24. Animations can be stopped and aren’t continuous
  25. Interactions (like opening & closing menus) are described in the code

3. Which guidelines are we failing on the most? And what are our gaps in the knowledge?

We took the 25 issues put them in a survey and asked our digital team to pick their top 5 they found the most.

Bar chart showing results from the poll our digital team took.

The results showed us that there was a mix of issues found related to different roles.

The top 3 issues we found were:

  1. Images are described if needed
  2. Links & buttons are descriptive
  3. Good colour contrast on text

So if we were Roger Craig we’d probably start there. But we are not Roger Craig we are a multi-disciplinary team involving 100s of people with all levels of experience.

Accessibility at scale

Although it was interesting to look at the stats, it did feel a bit mechanical and dehumanising at times.

What it did show is that we’d needed to look at:

  • how we could ensure accessibility was considered across all roles and disciplines
  • how could we talk about accessibility in human terms to be more inclusive with our language
  • how could we empower people to include accessibility in their day to day role, without putting too much strain on people
  • how can we make it stick

Look out for my next blog post where I’ll explain what we did next.