Before I get into the crux of this post, Let’s get all the hypocrisy out of the way. Yes, I use Twitter. I use Facebook. Although, that’s far less these days. I use Google services. I use Zoom. Partly because I’m dirt poor and can’t afford a more privacy focused option. I can’t pay for a service, so I’ve made a choice. Give up my data. Willingly. There’s another reason why I use mainstream, centralized services. I still have bosses, and I still need to work in a capitalist environment that’s accessible to me. I don’t have the luxury of caring about my privacy over, well, accessibility. With that being said, Let’s get into why I’m not joining your accessibility focused Discord server, or any server for that matter.
Even though I use Mastodon a lot more than Twitter and Facebook more these days, you should seriously join me on Mastodon, by the way, accessibility professionals still use Twitter and otherwise. What’s more, accessibility professionals still use Discord, which honestly blows my mind.
It’s more common in the video game accessibility space. Video game professionals still use Discord a lot. And when I say a lot, I really do mean, a lot. It’s mind boggling. They aren’t the only group to use Discord. Discord is moving into the corporate sector. This isn’t good.
I deleted my Discord account a few days ago because I just, simply, got tired of giving my data, and money, to a corporation that doesn’t really care about accessibility. Like, really. They don’t care. I mean, really. I want to outline a few examples. Some of these are anecdotal, but paint an overall picture, I hope. You can decide if you still want to use it. I just won’t be joining you on any future accessibility related panels using Discord when there’s Microsoft Teams or Zoom that’s far better choices for a number of reasons.
A lot of blind people I know say Discord is accessible. Is it, really? Though? Can you have Closed Captions during your meetings? Not from what I can see. Nothing built in, anyway. This third party service is a solution, but it’s setup is technical. And yes, I consider anything requiring a user to change more than three advanced settings to make something work, technical. This forum is a pretty good sample of how the community doesn’t believe accessibility is a topic that should be taken seriously, to boot. Sure, there’s more users pushing change, but it’s obvious the company and community just want the topic to vanish.
Other accessibility problems abound. In droves. If you have physical disabilities, good luck clicking on buttons and otherwise when you have tremors. The buttons and interactive elements, I’m told, are small. Not everybody is a screen reader user, which is why you should design with multiple disabilities in mind because solutions will overlap and even complement each other.
Text changes when users hover their mouse over messages in chat windows, which is terrible for folks who have ADHD or Autistic people. Sighted keyboard users cannot use the tab key to move around different sections, because it’s been overridden to always focus the text field. Even if you could use the tab key, the focus ring is overridden to be invisible, so you have no idea what will be activated when you press Enter.
It’s not accessible. Period. Don’t let blind people tell you otherwise, because most of them believe something to be accessible if it works with screen readers and nothing else. I’m guilty of accessibility selfishness as well, but also, the company is just not ethical in any way. Not even pretend ethics.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten many requests to appear on accessibility panels using Discord. I declined. They replied with, well, that’s the only thing my boss will let us use. They don’t like Zoom. Your company is unwilling to be accessible, then. You should speak up.
As many fumbles as Zoom had with privacy, I believe Zoom is learning from its mistakes. Discord seems to be reveling in just not giving a pancake about security or safety. or hoping people will continue to do what they are doing now and just use the product because they gave accessibility crumbs.
Discord has given us accessibility crumbs. They don’t truly care about accessibility, otherwise, they would be more transparent with their accessibility team instead of employing screen reader detection.
They do have an accessibility feedback form, but I’ve never gotten a response, at all, not even a canned one, when I’ve filled it out. This makes me wonder if anybody is even reading my messages. The fact I even have to wonder where a company stands with dedications is a big indicator that their accessibility dedication is for show.
They also use Trello to file bugs. I’m sure their disability beta team told them about the problems with Trello’s accessibility and it was probably dismissed or ignored. That’s speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
So, all in all, tell your bosses and colleagues that if they really want to have me appear on a panel, or a call, I’m not using Discord. I encourage other blind people to, also, stop accepting accessibility breadcrumbs and push for a better platform that meets our needs.
Steam is another example. Blind users say it’s accessible. This, again, is false. If a user has to go into the properties of a shortcut, it’s not accessible. It’s workable.
Microsoft Teams is a far better option. Zoom is a far better option. Matrix is a way better option. Are they perfect? No, they have their accessibility problems., but they are better choices. Use those platforms. Not Discord. Ideally, Matrix would become normalized, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. If you’re gonna give your data to a corporation, at least give it to an organization that has taken steps to ensure full accessibility across the board so you can, at least, get work done productively.