Shiny, new and inaccessible

Dean Birkett
Jun 22, 2020 · 2 min read

Recently, Twitter released a new feature to a limited number of people on their iOS app, this feature gives people the ability to record a tweet with their voice, and in their own words, “Everyone will be able to see (hear) them and reply.”

There are several issues with this feature and the specific quote above.

Twitter on the iPhone showing how it looks when you tap the button to record a tweet.
Twitter on the iPhone showing how it looks when you tap the button to record a tweet.
Recording a voice tweet

Firstly, when adding video or audio, this creates an immediate barrier to people with hearing impairments. Unless of course alternative methods are supplied, in this instance, captions or a transcript.

Secondly, for those without the first barrier, there is a reliance on the listener understanding the spoken language. Written text can be easily translated. Tapping ‘Translate Tweet’ removes the barrier for these people.

A comment in Dutch on Twitter from Eva Westerhoff, with the Translate Tweet link located underneath the text.
A comment in Dutch on Twitter from Eva Westerhoff, with the Translate Tweet link located underneath the text.
A comment in Dutch with a link to translate the tweet

Thirdly, filters enable people to block out content they do not wish to receive. These recorded tweets may contain these words.

A list of muted words on Twitter.
A list of muted words on Twitter.
A list of muted words on Twitter

Since writing this post someone already shared adult content. Which is detailed in the following article.

And finally, this opens up more possibilities for targeted harassment, or online bullying. Monitoring this content will be trickier for administrators to handle, should the recordings be flagged.

“Hey Emily, this is an early version of this feature. Making these types of Tweets accessible to everyone is important and we’re exploring ways to make that happen.” — Tweet from Twitter Support

Companies need to stop releasing ill-thought-out ‘shiny new’ features, look at what others have done before them (see Youtube for an example as to how they tackle the three issues above), and stop retrofitting accessibility.

“As a designer can I suggest you don’t try and retrofit accessibility in at the end and design your service with it right at the start. You are building a feature that is inaccessible to a wide range of people.” — My reply to Twitter Support

NOTE: The above is not a comprehensive list of what instances this feature is a barrier, as someone who worked with many non-verbal people, and people with speech impairments, I am aware that this also excludes them.

This post was originally published on June 18th 2020

Dean Birkett Design

Removing barriers to include more people, with design solutions that benefit all.

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