Twitter does not have a team dedicated to accessibility, the company confirmed after a developer alluded to the fact. It’s a baffling omission for a company that employs some 4,000 people and a CEO who is often heard talking about doing the right thing.
This is not to say that Twitter is a wasteland for accessibility features, though like any major platform it has a lot of room for improvement. But features that make a site easier for everyone to navigate — not just people who use screen readers or captions — require more than part-time input from concerned employees.
That Twitter has no accessibility team was brought to broader attention in a tweet from Andrew Hayward, a Twitter developer who has himself done a lot of work on features for people with disabilities.
When people criticized Twitter’s new audio tweet feature for not having any kind of captioning, the official Twitter Support account said that it was an “early version of this feature” and that the company would be “exploring” ways to make it accessible, which didn’t help.
Hayward chimed in to say that he and the other “volunteers behind accessibility at Twitter” were “frustrated and disappointed” at the lack of consideration for people with disabilities, prompting astonishment that there is no dedicated team. He clarified that they are paid employees (not outright volunteers) but that “the work we do is notionally on top of our regular roles.” So the work he and everyone else has done has essentially been in their spare time.
A full time accessibility team may feel like a luxury at smaller companies, but Twitter can hardly claim to be small, new, or unaware of the importance of these features. So it’s difficult to understand why it would have no team — even a handful of people — whose sole responsibility they are.
I asked Twitter to confirm that the company has no dedicated accessibility team. In lieu of comment, the company offered a link to this trio of tweets: A mea culpa, a quick fix for a basic accessibility issue, and the assurance that Twitter is “looking at how we can build a dedicated group to focus on accessibility, tooling, and advocacy across all products.”
We’re sorry about testing voice Tweets without support for people who are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. It was a miss to introduce this experiment without this support.
Accessibility should not be an afterthought. (1/3) https://t.co/9GRWaHU6fR
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 19, 2020
In other words, no: There’s no team, and only the very beginnings of a plan to build one. We’ll follow up with Twitter soon to see how that’s going.