In order to help other developers understand accessibility and assistive technology, I’ve been working on a series of articles aimed at developers. As a slight change of pace, I invite you to experience Twitter through the “eyes” of a screen reader in this short video. You’ll hear what it sounds like when a screen reader reads the text of a page, and you’ll experience what a blind user might experience if he or she encounters a browser popup dialog. You’ll also get a chance to experience what happens when the browser experiences the “spinning beachball” on Mac OSX.
I want you to know that I used Twitter in this example because it was on my screen when I started recording. These problems aren’t isolated to Twitter. Many, many sites have similar problems. However, there are three things Twitter could do right now which would have made the experience easier.
First, they could provide useful alternate text on the avatar images. They have the ability to know the account name of the user, and instead of “normal”, they could use “avatar for bphogan”.
Second, the main profile page seems to use the Geolocation API to find my address, which I find annoying even without a screen reader because it’s obtrusive. Browsers are required to ask permission to expose my information. Geolocation APIs can get your current coordinates, but that functionality should be handled on the preferences page of the site, not on the main interface page.
Thirdly, navigation that gets me right to the timeline should be available right at the top so that non-sighted users can get right where they want to be instead of having to listen to the contents of the search bar.
The takeaway from this is that there are issues that people face with these devices. Following best practices like “skip navigation” and better alternative text are a good start for improving the experience, but being aware of other problems will help you much more as a developer than any ‘accessibility checklist” ever will.
Please share your thoughts.