Why Twitter Needs to Care about Accessibility

Twitter has had an official app for a while. Now it has become less accessible, and it has also become integrated into iOS. Twitter must make the same commitment to accessibility which Apple has.

Accessibility refers to making something usable by everyone. In this case it refers to making an application work well with VoiceOver so that the blind can use it. Sites like Applevis post accessibility ratings for different apps. If an app does not play nicely with VoiceOver then the blind cannot use it and it may as well not exist for us.

This can seem very annoying, as you can imagine. For example, several friends have asked me to play Words with Friends. As you can read, everything works except for the game board, a rather important feature. I played a lot of Scrabble as a kid and would really enjoy playing again. The official Facebook app also sucks, and many have found alternatives. App developers can choose to improve accessibility, and many do. Many apps also work with little or no modification. All well and good, and normally I wouldn’t write a blog post about this.

The Twitter app falls into a special category however. Apple has chosen to integrate it very heavily into iOS 5. The Twitter settings has a link to easily download the official app, and iOS accesses it if using its built-in Twitter integration. This puts the app in a special circumstance. If a blind person wants to use iOS’s Twitter integration, they have to use the app. Because of its unique position, Twitter must care about accessibility.

Since it came out, Twitter has provided a clutter-free social network which the blind have enjoyed. I know many of us prefer it to Facebook for that reason. And don’t even get me started about Google+! Twitter must recognize this and continue along these lines.

Apple has become the leader in accessibility. Every Apple device talks out of the box. This includes the iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Apple TV, and Macs. No other company has done this. The blind have come to expect that anything Apple does will have accessibility in mind. Turning over their Twitter integration to a third party means that third party must have the same commitment. If they don’t it makes Apple look bad. Apple must recognize this and demand appropriate action.

In summary, the blind have come to know Apple as the leader of accessibility. Steve Jobs insisted that Apple’s devices should have universal accessibility. Having a Twitter app with less than full accessibility goes against this philosophy. Twitter must fix their official Twitter app as long as iOS depends on it. The Me tab has serious issues and unlabeled buttons. Oh well, back to using Tweetlist Pro!