How developers and companies should NOT reply to accessibility concerns

Note to screen reader users. The email address at the end of this post will be embedded into a text link.

I’m no stranger when it comes to companies and how they treat accessibility. Even today, accessibility is a costly chore or something they don’t want to be bothered with unless forced to by law. To most, except for a few exceptions, access and designing accessibility into a website or product is a hassle and a chore. Something people want to avoid at all costs. The common census, except for a few, seems to be,

“if we don’t intend to address, let’s not even try. This way, blind people won’t use our application! Genius!”

Maybe it’s because I am blind I just don’t understand how developers don’t somewhere, somehow, stop and think, gee, maybe blind people will use my website or application? Maybe?

Fortunately, companies like Amazon and Apple are making their application manuals address accessibility and design without developers knowing about it all that much. If people follow Apples developer guidelines to the letter then they will have an accessible application without having to do extra work or acquire much knowledge.

I could go into ways this is a good and a bad thing but that isn’t the focus of my thoughts this morning as I have a healthy dose of cookies and tea for breakfast.

I keep dwelling on how companies respond to accessible design and accessibility. Some folks, like word press, understood early on that we were going to use their stuff so they made things very accessible from the start and then built a foundation of accessibility into that core design. They even understand that not everybody uses apps and mobile phones to blog so everything still works on the desktop too.

Microsoft realized that, accessibility means more money! Oh, and it’s the law now too, and, oh, it’s good to have? And then they did a complete 180 and are like we toats love accessibility now! We have always! Yup! Always.

Dropbox realized that, oh my god! Blind people like us! Maybe we should continue to be good to them by listening to them and then following up on that feedback.

Lyft didn’t start out with accessibility in mind but they are now working on it and forming partnerships to better the experience.

And then, well, there are those other people. People who don’t know, don’t care, or know but don’t want to care, or don’t know and don’t want to know, at all.

Maybe it’s because I am not a developer but I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why some refuse to take accessibility seriously or even want to tackle it. I’m just a writer and editor so maybe I just don’t get how hard it is to sit in a chair and write code additions or substitutions or listen to feedback or anything.

The thing is, though. That goes both ways. I don’t understand what they go through but they also don’t have a clue what access means to me, either.

Sighted developers don’t have to think about if an application is accessible to them. They don’t have to wonder if they can use all parts of the website or software. They can interact with everything on the screen and can use anything and everything. To them, the possibilities are limitless.

The thing is though; people should take accessibility and access design more seriously. Blind people will try your application and website. In most cases if they can’t use it they will instantly remove it and warn other screen reader users of the application and then many more will avoid it. There are those cases though where friends of ours use these apps or companies use them and we’re in this company. What then?

Most try and write to the developers politely. Despite what everybody thinks blind people do have lives and even technology related jobs now. The internet has changed the employment landscape for us.

Most of the time, however, we get a general, oh sure. We are totally working on it, but can you please go the hell away and never bother us with this “feature” again?

It happens all the time. it continues to happen. It still confuses me… it confuses me that people think access is a feature, like picking a shoe color or a type of laptop. I don’t get it. Then again, I am not sighted.

I’d like to write about a few instances. Zoho, and, Discord.

Discord is a chat application basically. I couldn’t tell you much about it because I couldn’t use it. The website nor the IOS version. I couldn’t get to a feature; I couldn’t use it. At all. Period.

Same thing with Zoho. Soho is basically a cloud based Office alternative to Google. I could use it at the time with my screen reader turned off a few years ago because I was legally blind back then. Still, I tried writing their team an email and tweeting them about their screen reader accessibility. No word via email but they did tweet me back!

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I replied, making them aware this was more than just a feature.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

There’s a “but” though. Nothing has been done, at all. Absolutely nothing. Even today people are still writing on their forums saying people with screen readers can’t use their stuff.

As Discord grows in popularity more people will be using it. I’m not the only screen reader user who couldn’t use it. I found a reddit thread where a user clearly outlines their frustration. I’m shocked at the developers reply. It will make your head spin.

https://www.redditstatic.com/comment-embed.js

I’m very sorry to hear about your community’s experience with our customer care. I can assure you we take all support tickets, twitter requests, and general emails with the utmost consideration. With that said, unfortunately at the moment most of our app is not setup for screenreaders, but it is something that we want to do in the future.
Again, I’m incredibly sorry for your experience that you had with our twitter, and that others within your community have had with our other outlets, and I can assure you that we will try to improve our usability for disabilities in the future. If you have any questions, or just wanna chat, feel free to DM me on Reddit, or you can add me on Discord – “Shuu#0001”. Thanks.
EDIT: You guys are right for calling me out, I apologize for my sloppy response. I’m also gonna go back and check out why you had a poor interaction on twitter so we can learn from that and do better next time.
I’m going to explore this topic with our development and design team. I’m afraid I can’t guarantee anything at this point. Two things to remember are that A) building things is generally harder than it seems, especially since we never want to implement something hastily or half-assed and B) we have to prioritize our small engineering teams work extremely aggressively — which means we lean towards building things that affect the most amount of people. If we could wave a magic wand we’d absolutely implement this yesterday, though.
So anyway, again I apologize for the stiff response before. We definitely do listen to you guys and want you to have an amazing experience with Discord and know that this topic is being explored.

I just had to jump in. that was a stupid reply and completely ignorant. I wonder if the developer even read the post.

https://www.redditstatic.com/comment-embed.js

Until we see some blog posts about how you are working on accessibility, sorry is not good enough. You can use your app and website. We can’t.
If you really are “sorry” then prove it. ask for accessibility feedback. testers.
start by having an accessibility feedback email address that can be easily found.
Post blogs on the accessibility development.
For me, sorry does not work at all unless you prove to me that you are not just saying that to make me shut up and go away.
There are even blind developers, accessibility reddits who would help you without hesitation. There is not that much work that needs to be done. You do not need to make the whole website over again or app. Just make accessibility patches and develop accessibility into the website. It does not need to be scrapped completely.
Look up accessibility developers, blind developers. Ask for assistance.

I just don’t get it. Why do people think access is a feature? I will never understand it. How would people feel if I built a theme park with no sidewalks to navigate around the park in? I don’t understand it at all and I probably never will.

There’s a million ways to respond. You could be honest and say, yeah, we don’t have a clue what we are doing or at least be honest and say I don’t want to allow you to use my software. I will still fight for access, but it’s a hell of a lot better reply than, sorry LOL!

Just think about where you stand. Access isn’t a feature. What if you couldn’t use one of our apps because you didn’t have an application that displayed things on screen and no audio? What if you had to pay for something you couldn’t even use? I know Discord is free and many things are free but still… I just don’t get it, quite frankly.

Blind people will try your application. They will write to you. it’s up to you to do better in your responses.

We do have choices too.

we have choices where we put our money and time. think about that next time you want to treat accessibility like it’s a cool little feature.

If you want to join my advocacy group send an email to this address.

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