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Why Digital Accessibility on Twitter Is at Stake

By Florence Ouma

Twitter’s Accessibility Experience Team got laid off in a series of changes sweeping the social media platform. The team was responsible for making the site’s user experience friendlier for people living with disabilities.

The now ex-Engineering Manager for the Accessibility Experience Team at Twitter took to the platform to break the news in a series of tweets.

In 2020, the team was created to focus on continually improving the accessibility of the bird app. The impact of this team is evident with the rolling out of features such as Alt text and Alt text reminders, auto caption, subtitle file support, accessible content labels, and a host of other features you can explore here.

Alt Text

Alt text is a short form for “alternative text.” It makes online content accessible for persons with disabilities by describing images, so the visually impaired understand them like the sighted users.

Video Auto-Caption/Subtitle File Support

Automatic captioning transcribes videos, especially when you are watching without sound, on autoplay mode. Auto-captioning sometimes falls short when it cannot detect the audio or incorrectly transcribes it. 

Fortunately, the subtitle file support feature ensures reliable captioning. The Accessibility Experience Team made it possible to add caption files called SRT or SubRip Subtitle files to videos you upload on the platform. 

Pending Accessibility Features 

When the accessibility team got the boot, they worked on making it easier for regular users to adopt accessibility best practices on the platform. 

 It is hard to remain optimistic that such radical changes will not lead to severe setbacks in digital accessibility at Twitter. We are already witnessing #TwitterMigration as uneasy Twitter users searching for stability try out Mastodon.

Florence Ouma is an ICT Access and Equality Fellow for PwDs at KICTANet. She wants you to be mindful of digital accessibility. Are you an a11y?

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