After several rounds of layoffs, Twitter’s staff has shrunk from around 7,500 employees to less than 2,000 – and one of many cuts to the company eliminated the platform’s entire accessibility team last year.
In a open letter to Elon Musk, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) called on Twitter’s new owner to bring back the accessibility team.
“Unsurprisingly, since you shut down Twitter’s accessibility team, users with disabilities have reported increased difficulty and frustration using Twitter,” Markey said. writing.
Like any social platform, Twitter has had its weaknesses when it comes to accessibility – in 2020, Twitter didn’t even have an accessibility team and only established a after public outcry when the company rolled out voice tweets without captions. But in the few years that Twitter has had an accessibility team, the company has rolled out features for alt text on images, automatic captioning on videos, and captions for Spaces live audio rooms. and voice tweets. Many disabled users found community on Twitter because its built-in accessibility features made it easier to use than other social platforms.
With no accessibility team on Twitter, it’s not like the platform’s features have just been left idle. Captions on Twitter spaces have gone absolutely, rendering the feature unusable for any user who is deaf or hard of hearing. To users with disabilities, this sends the message that accessibility is no longer part of the conversation at Twitter headquarters (which, by the way, the company has stopped paying rent For).
Twitter’s accessibility suffered another blow when the platform cut off access to its API. Now, third-party developers will have to pay a yet-to-be-determined monthly fee to rely on a platform that previously hosted them for free. That means beloved apps like Ironfactory’s Twitterrific, which gave users an extension accessibility featuresare not available.
“I received more than a few emails from blind users who were upset and outraged because they most likely should stop using Twitter without accessible third-party clients like Twitterrific,” said Gedeon Maheux, co-founder of ‘Iron factory. Forbes.
Markey’s letter poses a number of questions to Musk, which Markey requested answers to by March 17. Markey asks why Musk eliminated the Accessibility Team and whether he will reinstate it, Twitter’s compliance with ADA and FCC accessibility regulations, why Twitter removed captioning from Spaces, and if the platform is committed to creating user-friendly experiences for all types of content.
“All of these changes under your leadership signal a disregard for the needs of people with disabilities,” Markey wrote to Musk.