Recently Wired magazine published an article entitled, “Meet the Team That Makes It Possible for the Blind to Use Facebook”. In the article the author, Cade Metz, introduces Wired readers to the team of software engineers within Facebook that help bring the world’s most popular social media system to persons with disabilities. We also meet Users who extol the virtues of the access available to blind and other individuals with disabilities. Facebook has done much to bring about access to its product.
There is a downside which the article implies, but which is all too often a part of what we as “disabled users” encounter with Facebook and other products of its kind and which needs more discussion. As changes are made to the products they do not always translate into immediate updates that we can use. For example, the most recent update to the Facebook app on the iPhone has broken much of the accessibility enjoyed by blind users.
It is exciting to see that a large thriving organization like Facebook has taken steps to make its products more accessible, but true access can only come when the corporate mindset as a whole embraces accessibility for all. What is needed is for organizations like Facebook to make Access a part of its full quality assurance process. No app or update to the program should be allowed out the door until access and compliance to all access standards are met. Without putting such strict measures in place blind and other users with disabilities often have to wait for months until new updates are released. Even then, there is no guarantee that the new update fixes all problems without creating others.
As a user of Facebook I appreciate all that the company is doing to make it possible for me to use the product. However, I also must remind Facebook and other companies that access is a right for me and others who happen to have a “disability”. I hope the day will come when an “accessibility mindset” will be the norm and that we all will be more aware so that our citizens as a whole encourage full access for all.