Research on the accessibility of apps
Which accessibility settings do the Dutch really use on their phone?

As an internet company, we at Q42 have been working hard for years to improve app accessibility. But we also needed to figure out which accessibility settings Dutch people actually use on their phones.

So we decided to investigate just that. We looked at how more than one million people use accessibility options in the mobile applications of a number of well-known Dutch brands. The results of our accessibility research turned out to be far too interesting to keep to ourselves...

43% Almost half of the people surveyed use one or more accessibility settings on their phone.

14% What is more, a large group even uses two or more accessibility settings.

The most commonly used accessibility feature is text size adjustment. The accessibility research looked at all phone settings and why people activate them.

We have listed the results below, including an extrapolation to the entire Dutch population. You can read more about the figures and the study here.

Most commonly used settings

Adjust text size
32.62 %
Dark mode
26.79%
Zoom
7 %
Bold text
6.86 %
Shake to undo
6.14 %
Speak selection
4.19 %
Reduce transparency
3.41 %

What is digital accessibility?

There are 4.5 million people in the Netherlands with a demonstrable disability. That is more than one quarter of the population. *

Apps and websites also need to be accessible to people with a physical or intellectual handicap. This is known as digital accessibility.

*Source: How many people have a disability? (Dutch article)

Semi-literate people
2,500,000
The deaf and hard of hearing
1,500,000
Colour-blind people
700,000
People with seriously impaired motor skills
472,000
Dyslexic people
450,000
Visually impaired people
200,000
Blind people
80,000
People with a mild intellectual disability
68,000

Visual settings
When you cannot see the screen properly

The study shows that visual settings are changed most frequently in mobile applications. Note: these functions are not only used by people with a visual impairment.

For example, it can be useful to increase the contrast of the screen in full sunlight. Also, if you are looking at your screen for an extended period of time, turning on dark mode makes it a lot easier on the eyes.

6.86% turn on bold text.

33% adjust the text size.

  • Smaller13%
  • Larger20%

3.99% select an increased colour contrast.

Colinda Hoegee Non-congenital brain injury

Create a dark mode. Not just for me. Screens cause sleep problems and we are working with them more and more.

26.79% have turned on dark mode.

7% use zoom.

3.41% have turned off the transparency setting.

Users who switch off the transparency feature often switch on bold text.

Audio settings
When spoken language is not your language

Closed captions and other audio settings are indispensable for people who are deaf or have difficulty hearing.

But closed captions are also handy when watching a video in a noisy environment, or if Dutch is not your first language.

2.99% turn on mono audio.

Eva Westerhoff Deaf

With my mobile and the Internet, I can take on the whole world. But it is important that an app is easily accessible for everyone, even if you are deaf or visually impaired.

1.27% have closed captions on by default.

Speech settings
When you depend on spoken text

If you are unable to look at your screen for whatever reason, speech settings help you absorb the information in another way.

But the read-aloud feature can also be helpful if you have difficulty reading written text.

4.19% use speak selection.

2.48% use the speak screen feature.

Jeroen van der Linden Blind

Without the accessibility settings on my phone, I wouldn't be able to use most of the apps.

Voice-over

Our results do not show any significant use of the voice-over function. However, additional qualitative research we have conducted shows that a quarter of the respondents use a screen reader.

The ability to have text read aloud is essential for blind people and the visually impaired, but people with autism or focus and concentration problems also use this feature.

Other striking results
Because you simply need it

In addition to the findings set out above, we also discovered some that are not also easily categorised. These findings emphasise the importance of paying sufficient attention to accessibility.

For example, many Dutch people have activated settings that make their phones somewhat less sensitive. They may do this because they have a medical condition and are unable to keep their hands still, or when they are in a rattling, overcrowded bus.

6.14% have turned off shake to undo.

Reachability

This setting moves the content of the screen down a little, making it easier to operate the screen when using the device with one hand.

In our qualitative research, 10% (28 people) of those surveyed said they used reachability. This feature is handy if you are forced to use only one hand on your large six-inch screen.

Accountability
Accessibility is more than numbers

Accessibility is more than just these numbers. It is about people. However, the subject can seem fairly abstract to people who do not have a disability. It is difficult to imagine the importance of digital features and other tools for people with disabilities.

That was the motivation behind this accessibility research: to show that digital accessibility is far closer than you think. We hope that the results will help you to recognise accessibility as an important component of product development.

The study

Our accessibility research consists of two parts. First, in 2020 we surveyed 268 respondents about the use of certain features on their phones. Second, we conducted a quantitative study into activated accessibility features in iOS apps we had developed.

To this end, we added a small script to these apps in consultation with our customers. When the app starts, this script runs a completely anonymous check to see which accessibility options users have activated on their iPhone. Such a check cannot be traced back to individuals: it is normally used to check which phone settings an app needs to support.

How did we get these high numbers?

Some of Q42’s major customers participated in the quantitative research. Their apps serve a significant portion of the Dutch population. This allowed us to conduct the study initially among upwards of one million unique iPhone users. Since 2020, this number has grown to 1.5 million Dutch residents with the addition of apps from more customers, making the research ever more accurate.

Owing to the high absolute numbers, we felt it was justified to extrapolate to all Dutch residents, regardless of whether they have an iPhone or Android device. This put us in a position to say something meaningful about the use of accessibility features on mobile phones in the Netherlands.

The next step

Our research demonstrates that accessibility settings are used much more widely than you might expect. The results help us to increase customer focus in this area. We hope that our research will help you and your team to develop digital products that everyone can use.

Would you like to know how we can contribute, or do you have questions about our research? If so, email Johan or call +31 70 445 2342.