Twitter's audio tweets have a major accessibility issue: Details here
A day ago, Twitter announced audio tweets as a way to let users share their personal thoughts and experiences in their own voice. The feature - available to a limited set of users - drew a lot of attention, but soon, things started going sideways due to a major accessibility flaw in the capability. Here are more details about it.
No captions for people hard of hearing
Though restricted to select iOS users, the audio tweeting feature, which lets users share voice notes of up to 140 seconds to their followers, became a subject of major criticism after launch. The reason being, users noted that the feature does not offer any kind of captioning, making it nearly impossible to be used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Concerns of Twitter not being inclusive for people with disabilities
As the issue surfaced, concerns grew that Twitter is not focusing on being inclusive for people with disabilities. "I do worry that if this becomes a prominent feature, #deaf users will be left out," UK-based deaf journalist Liam O'Dell tweeted. Other platforms, including Google's YouTube, Zoom, Facebook, and Snapchat, all offer captions for their users.
Official response did not help either
In light of the complaints, Twitter Support told affected deaf users that "this is an early version of this feature" and the company is "exploring ways" to make it accessible to everyone. Evidently, that did not help the company's case; many called out Twitter for not considering accessibility right from the beginning and making it more like an "afterthought."
Then, it was revealed Twitter doesn't have accessibility team
Following these developments, Twitter software engineer Andrew Hayward expressed frustration and disappointment over the matter, much like the rest of the community. He tweeted, "The volunteers behind accessibility at Twitter (there is no formal team) strive to do their best" but they "aren't aware of every product decision" which has led to the accessibility miss in question.
Hayward clarified all volunteers are paid
Hayward's tweet came as a major surprise because no one expected that Twitter, which employs some 4,000 people around the world, would not even have a team dedicated to accessibility. Later, the developer shared another tweet clarifying that he and all other volunteers are paid but the work they do towards accessibility "is notionally on top of our regular roles."
Twitter has apologized, promised to make things right
Twitter acknowledged the lack of an accessibility team and told The Verge it is "looking at how we can build out a more dedicated group to focus on accessibility tooling and advocacy across all products." "We missed around voice Tweets, and we are committed to doing better - making this feature more accessible and also all features in the future," the company added.
Here is Twitter's response on the matter
We’ve fixed several issues related to vision accessibility, including making voice Tweets identifiable on the timeline and making accessibility improvements to the voice Tweet experience. These updates will be available in a forthcoming iOS release. (2/3)— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 19, 2020