Ten years of accessibility on Twitter

Wednesday, 23 March 2016 11:43am

Popular social media short-blogging site Twitter is 10 years old and over its life it has gone from being accessible to less accessible and back again. This story reflects a common pattern in accessibility.

Twitter logo

In his blog, Robin Christopherson traces the accessibility of Twitter in ten tweets, showing the ebbs and flows as new features were developed.

Twitter started as a text-only platform and was inherently accessible, however its interface was not very accessible so disabled users faced challenges logging in and using the system. From this, an accessible version, Easy Chirp, was created that got around a lot of the interface inaccessibility.

In 2011 Media Access Australia published its very popular guide to the accessibility of social media. In this, author Dr Scott Hollier noted that although Twitter’s interface was quite inaccessible, the Easy Chirp site, mobile Twitter interface and a number of iOS Twitter apps were useful for accessibility workarounds.

A new feature of Twitter then took accessibility backwards. Tweeters can now capture a Tweet as an image and include that with their own tweet. Of course that retweeted image is not accessible to blind, vision impaired and people with print disabilities who are relying on a screen-reader to read out the text. 

However, as Christophersen notes, more social media is accessible these days with dedicated accessibility teams to help out and monitor accessibility issues.

“Often as software and platforms develop they improve their features but lose their accessibility, and then the accessibility catches up again just before a new version is released,” said Media Access Australia CEO Alex Varley.

“However, we are seeing better accommodation of accessibility. For example Facebook users can now include a caption on uploaded photographs which makes it accessible to vision impaired users.”

Media Access Australia has up-to-date content on the accessibility and work arounds for different disabilities for popular social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, LinkedIn and blogging tools.

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