Twitter is testing a new feature, which is currently only available to a select number of iOS users, that allows users to record a snippet of audio and tweet it. News of this feature was quickly met with criticism over the apparent lack of captions, reducing its accessibility for deaf users.
With the greatest of respect, Twitter, describing this version of the feature as ‘early’ to make up for the fact that it currently isn’t accessible (but may well be in a later version) isn’t good enough.
Accessibility should be considered from the start, not as an afterthought. https://t.co/qLA7Wcj3oQ
— Liam O’Dell (@LiamODellUK) June 17, 2020
According to The Verge, “commenters pointed out that other social platforms have captions, so the excuse that this was a new feature didn’t really hold water. For the record, YouTube, Facebook videos, Zoom, and Snapchat Discover videos all offer captioning.”
It was then revealed – by Andrew Hayward, a software engineer at Twitter – that the company does not yet have a team dedicated to accessibility, it instead relies on employees to volunteer their time (over and above their daily roles) to address accessibility issues.
Just to clarify, given that this seems to have gained some traction… we are volunteers in so much as the work we do is notionally on top of our regular roles, rather than being full time.
We are all otherwise paid employees – Twitter is not outsourcing unpaid labour!
— Andrew Hayward (⌀4.5m) (@arhayward) June 18, 2020
UK-based deaf journalist, Liam O’Dell tweeted “I do worry that if this becomes a prominent feature, deaf users will be left out.”
Twitter has since responded in an official statement, reading:
“Right now, there are groups and individuals across the company that support our accessibility work. See @TwitterA11y and @TwitterAble. We’re 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. We’re constantly reviewing both the functionality of our products and the internal processes that inform them; we’ll share progress in this area.”