What Does Having an “Accessible” Survey Mean?

How do you make a survey more accessible?

  1. Avoid using Likert scale, grid, hidden, and JavaScript questions
  2. Dedicate one question per page
  3. Update warning messages to be optimized for assistive technology
  4. Use either a simple theme or a high contrast one
  5. Include captions or ALT text to your images
  6. Use People First Language
  7. Use an online accessibility checker to test the survey


Being able to use a WordPress survey tool properly is not just about asking the right questions and getting the right answers. It is also about making sure that every significant respondent will be given a feedback. This means that even people with disabilities can answer it. To do this, a survey must be “accessible.”

Amendment of Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Amendment of Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Back in 1998, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended by Congress. In this amendment, Federal agencies became required to make all their electronic information accessible to people with disabilities. While this law was intended for government bodies, companies began to use the law as a guide for their products and services to be able to cater to the less able consumer.


Section 508 Compliance

There is a guideline in this amendment called the Section 508 Compliance. This states how these agencies can make their information available for people with disabilities just as easily as for those who are fully capable. The particular guidelines will be discussed below.


  • Questions

 In order to make an accessible survey, it must be compatible with screen readers and other sorts of assistive technology. Because of this, the following questions must be avoided:


  1. Likert Scale and Grid Questions

A Likert scale is common to a rating scale in which respondents can accurately rank their feelings about a question. Usually, there are five or more questions. These are usually Strong Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, and Strong Disagree.

 The problem with this is that it is seen by screen readers as a table in which the labels and buttons are labeled differently. Doing this may confuse many blind respondents.

It is highly suggested for you to use either a radio button displayed horizontally, when asking ranking questions, or to include an alternate description that can be read by assistive technology.


  1. JavaScript Questions

While such questions are visually pleasing, they are very hard to read. Blind people will also find it difficult to relate to them. Thus, questions with image choices, star rankings, drag and drop, and custom tables should be avoided.


  1. Hidden Questions

Hidden Questions happen, when a question is skipped due to an answer in the previous item. This is also referred to as piping. Although it is a great survey method, it should be avoided when surveying the general public. This is because piping is done via JavaScript and it won’t be read properly by assistive technology.


  • Layout

To make the layout of an online survey accessible to people with disabilities, it is highly suggested that a page only has one single question. This is commonly found in mobile surveys. In such a layout, assistive technology can read the questions out first and then switch to form mode when it is time to answer. In this mode, screen readers focus on reading inputs and labels.


  • Warning Messages

A warning message that is used to tell respondents that he forgot to answer a required question is useful to make sure that a survey will reach accurate results. Sadly, this is usually not read by screen readers when it isn’t optimized for it.


  • Visuals

 For the visually impaired, the simpler the theme of a survey is, the better. Thus, having no theme is the suggested choice. But if a surveyor chooses to add one, then he must choose one of high contrast to help those who aren’t completely blind but are impaired. This contrast checker is highly useful.


  • Images

 Surveyors must be sure to add ALT text or captions to the images of their survey. This text is readable by assistive technology and, thus, must be able to accurately convey what an image contains.


  • Language

It is strongly recommended to use People First Language in a survey to be given to people with disabilities. This is a linguistic practice that ensures that the word “disabled” is not used in order to avoid dehumanizing the person and making him feel like he is defined by his limited capabilities. Instead, the term “people with disabilities” is used. As you can see, the word “disabled” is not used on this article.

Also, when addressing the respondent, it is important to name him first followed by his condition to emphasize that they are people first.


  • Testing the Survey

 Before releasing a questionnaire, there are numerous softwares that can help researchers test if their surveys are accessible. An example of which is Wave. You can utilize it to ensure your survey can access a broader audience.

More people accessing surveys

Key Takeaway

In any survey, the goal is to get accurate answers from a large group of people. But when a big portion of the said group cannot answer the survey, then the results will be biased.

This happens, when a survey is not accessible and people with disabilities cannot make their voices heard. The concluding result will end up not benefitting a big part of the population. It will become an ineffective survey, research, and reaction. But by following these guidelines, your surveys can reach anyone and everyone, and get more accurate results.

Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.

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