Spotify’s accessibility: so close but so far

Wednesday, 23 May 2012 13:59pm

Apps that are accessible to people who have a disability are few and far between. So when an app qualifies as accessible, it’s a cause for celebration. The music streaming service Spotify launched in Australia yesterday, and while it has been commended by many in the accessibility world for its consideration of the needs of disabled users, its integration with Facebook still presents a significant barrier for potential users.

Through its smartphone, tablet and desktop apps, Spotify gives access to a “world of music”, allowing users to stream tracks and albums from millions of international artists. Its integration with social media is central to the experience of using the app, with user activity such as songs, albums and playlists users have listened to being posted automatically to Facebook.

AppleVis, a blog dedicated to reviewing Apple products for blind and vision impaired users, declared the Spotify iOS app fully compatible with the VoiceOver screen reader. According to the AppleVis review, each button is clearly labelled, VoiceOver can read each page element, and the app is “easy to navigate and use”.

Judging from this review, it’s clear Spotify’s developers had the needs of screen reader users in mind. But to use Spotify, you need a Facebook account, which with its inaccessible interface, detracts from all the accessibility merits that the developers of Spotify have been careful to include.

In the past Spotify allowed users to create their own Spotify username, but in the most recent version of the app, it’s impossible to by-pass the sign-up with Facebook feature. For the many people with a disability who do not use Facebook, the Spotify app, accessible as it may be, remains out of their reach.

Since Facebook’s update with Timeline, the social media giant has increasingly come under fire for its lack of accessibility. Using the standard Facebook website, screen reader users have to navigate their way through a maze of links before they can carry out basic functions. The newly introduced Timeline feature presents poor usability and inaccessible colour contrast. While there is no solid data available, many people who are blind or vision impaired don’t bother with the world’s most popular social network.

Spotify’s accessible merits show developers are paying attention to the needs of disabled users, which is a step forward. But its reliance on users signing into Facebook to use the service remains a barrier for those it was made accessible for. 

Detailed instructions on how to sign up to Facebook are available in our social media section. Here you will also find methods for overcoming Facebook’s accessibility barriers.

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