Inaccessibility even faster: Facebook’s latest update

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Monday, 27 August 2012 09:39am

Facebook's latest app update has improved the speed of the software but has failed to increase the app's accessibility, and made performing some tasks impossible for blind users.

According to Facebook, newsfeed updates will load faster and actions such as commenting and clicking 'like' will be updated in real time. However, our testing of the updated app on an iPhone 4S shows a number of features that are still inaccessible using VoiceOver.

Some of the new accessibility barriers include:

  • General inconsistencies with being able to scroll through the newsfeed. The status, photo and check-in options aren't consistently available.  
  • When a status update in the newsfeed is in focus by VoiceOver, the status and amount of likes and comments is announced but no instructions on how to 'like' or comment on a status update is given by VoiceOver.
  • When writing a status update, users are unable to tag friends as VoiceOver doesn't announce friends’ names when in focus.
  • Unable to send messages. VoiceOver doesn't announce how to select contacts when composing a message.
  • Unable to chat. Users can scroll between online friends but  not begin chatting with them.
  • Event details aren't announced when highlighted.

Although some things have been improved, such as the labelling of the notification, friend request and message buttons, the update makes it clear that accessibility is not a concern for the social network giant.  While other social networks such as Twitter have taken recent steps to improve access, Facebook continues to disregard the needs of users with a disability.

Instead of the app, many screen reader users prefer the simplified Facebook mobile site. This has not been updated and makes Facebook’s basic functions possible.

Facebook's accessibility team invite assistive technology users to register accessibility issues.

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