Fediverse accessibility resources.

I wanted to share some accessible fediverse tools if anybody wants to start exploring the fediverse. Basically, the fediverse is like a decentralized social media and platform bridge that connects platforms and things to one another.

One person can follow and even DM to another, even if that other person is using another instance and or platform. For example, on my Plume home, which is for writers and bloggers, I can follow someone on Mastodon. Unless they are on a blocked instance, but I’m not explaining that here in depth.

But basically, administrators decide which networks they connect with. If your instance is known for welcoming Nazi’s or posting bigotry, for example, hosts can block that whole instance if they want. No one is at the whims of a giant corporation. Yes, it has it’s downfalls. I’m not covering the downfalls of a federated system in-depth, but one downfall is that harassment can be much harder to pin down, in terms of who started it. Harassment could also happen across platforms, leaving people confused on who to report the abuse to.

Anyway, this is a great quick page on the Fediverse. I care about accessibility more than explaining how it all works together, so let’s jump right in.

Before we begin, consider donating to my Patreon so I can continue bringing exciting fiction with disabled characters!

A note on accessibility. The law, at least here in the USA, does not cover federated social networking platforms. With Twitter, one can file a complaint. With open source, federated, platforms, advocating for accessibility is a billion times harder, especially for those less techy.

That being said, below are accessible platforms with links. All are available on GitHub, so if accessibility improvements are made to the main software, all these little instances get an accessibility upgrade. If the administrator upgrades their site, that is.

I didn’t include the non accessible platforms like Diaspora. If a platform didn’t have labeled buttons or fields, I didn’t include it here.

There’s no accessible desktop application like TW Blue that can interact with the fediverse so everything will need to be done in a web browser. For now. TW Blue is working on Mastodon support, though, since Twitter is blocking third party clients and killing SMS support.

Follow people or organizations by topic

Add me on the Fediverse.

To follow me on most platforms, copy my full handle into your platform’s search bar, then click on follow. You don’t even have to sign up for my instance. Don’t click the below link. Copy and paste it into your platform’s search page and then click, follow.

weirdwriter@mastodon.social

Funkwhale.

Funkwhale is an audio hosting website. You can listen to radio stations, subscribe to podcasts, and even create playlists. The feeds work in most podcast apps, as far as I know.

At the time of this writing, all buttons and player functions are keyboard friendly but NVDA can act a little odd when trying to use the media player in browse mode.

  1. Main documentation.
  2. Open Pods to join
  3. How to subscribe via Funkwhale feeds.

Liberapay.

Liberapay is a Patreon alternative. Profiles can be written in Markdown, which makes structuring profiles easy for screen reader users. At the moment, there’s a few unlabeled checkboxes while editing your profile, but the donation portion and the front end is very accessible. For the moment, the navigation menu at the top has an unlabeled button but bugs have already been filed. Users can donate to a creator in a number of ways.

  1. Accessibility bugs and fixes filed.
  2. My Liberapay page.

Fedireads

Fedireads aims to be a Goodreads alternative, for book lovers to rank, and track books. The main platform is not ready for adoption yet, but already the platform is showing some really huge accessibility commitment. Covers have alt text, all buttons are labeled, all edit fields are labeled, everything is a very clear element. the site is very lightweight and very fast. Headings are in nested order, as well as other enhancements. The initial creator is very quick to try new accessibility suggestions.

Plume.

Plume is a federated blogging platform, with a really lightening fast interface. Everything is labeled, with keyboard access and great use of landmarks. Their RSS feeds are currently broken, but your posts still federate to other instances and platforms. It appears to be geared for teams of bloggers, but I couldn’t figure out how to invite writers to my test blog.

Everything can be written in markdown, even your profile’s about text.

Plume related links:

  1. About Plume.
  2. The most popular Plume instance. It’s free.
  3. Plume source code.

Friendica.

Friendica is the weirdest, but coolest, idea I’ve seen in a long while. It’s a hybrid of facebook and a blog. It has IFTTT support, wordpress support, blogger support, and a bunch more things, including markdown support. Any host running versions earlier than 2020 will not be as accessible, but the recent versions still have some keyboard access problems when opening tabs. Settings are tabs you have to expand and collapse. Sometimes, hitting enter on a tab does nothing, but I really think that’s a FireFox bug.

If your instance allows it, people can even send you emails using their own email clients and they appear as direct messages or comments on walls. Whatever you choose.

All buttons are labeled. There isn’t useless javascript. Landmarks are used well. All edit fields are labeled.

Unfortunately, it’s not popular. I tried a few instances, see below. One instance had markdown support but didn’t have email support. The other had email support but didn’t have markdown support. The rest were closed to new members or not in English.

Friendica links:

  1. About Friendica.
  2. Public Friendica servers.
  3. Another database of friendica instances. Wait for the table to load.
  4. Friendica source code.

Mastodon.

Mastodon is a Twitter alternative and is the most popular example of the Fediverse. It’s Micro blogging. Lots of mainstream media like it because it’s not Twitter and actively gives tools so administrators can create safe spaces. If you choose an instance like, well, a Nazi ran instance, other communities may have blocked that instance so nobody will see anything you post.

It’s very accessible, but I’ve seen a ton of instances running older versions that don’t add keyboard support or other accessibility enhancements so make sure you choose an instance wisely..

  1. Pinafore. A very, very, accessible web client for the Mastodon universe.
  2. Accessibility bugs in Pinafore filed and fixed.
  3. Screen reader guide for Mastodon.
  4. Brief accessibility overview of Mastodon.
  5. Join Mastodon landing page. Also gives a few instances to try.
  6. A11y peeps to follow on Mastodon.
  7. Mastodon source code.

Write Freely.

Write Freely is another blogging tool/software. It hosts many instances, much like WordPress. The developer told me that he has taken steps to actively make sure everything conforms to accessibility standards, but I haven’t tried it for myself.

The themes are all done through CSS. So someone could make a high contrast theme, for example. I’ve only tested their flagship instance, write.is. I couldn’t gleam any useful information about the themes at all, such as what the backround is and everything because I got extremely tired with trying to understand the CSS codes.

Still, every edit field and button is labeled so far.

Some hosts are paid and some are free. All modern hosts support markdown.

I couldn’t figure out how the contrast is to the themes, though.

  1. Join a write freely instance.
  2. Write freely source code.
  3. Their flagship instance.

Matrix

Remember AIM? Those were the good old days. Matrix is a decentralized chat protocol. With concepts known as bridging, Matrix aims to make instant messaging and chat as painless and interoperable as email. In fact, that’s how Matrix bills itself. It’s like email, but for instant messaging.

Because it’s more of a protocol than any of the above platforms, accessibility relies completely on the software used.

Matrix links.

  1. Matrix overview for screen readers.
  2. Apps that work with Matrix.
  3. Accessibility updates for Riot IM
  4. Matrix source code.

Runner ups.

The below list didn’t make my accessibility top pick for various reasons, but they are actively working accessibility issues as far as I know.

  1. PeerTube. An alternative to YouTube.

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Published by:

Robert Kingett

Robert Kingett is a gay blind journalist, and author, with many publications in magazines, anthologies, and blogs. He has judged many writing contests and has won many awards for his writings and advocacy.

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