Clubhouse and its clones have an accessibility problem

The social audio app has been criticized for inaccessibility – how do its competitors stack up?

Clubhouse took off last year and prompted competitors to add their own voice chat rooms that can host hundreds if not thousands of people. But the Hit app has had a serious problem from the start, constantly Pointed out by accessibility advocates: It doesn’t cover people with disabilities, the most obvious issue being that the audio-based app doesn’t have built-in captions. This makes it unusable for deaf people and difficult to use for those who are hard of hearing or struggle with audio processing.

Companies often mention that their products are still in development or beta testing when discussing accessibility options, but the ideal development process includes working with people with disabilities from the early design stages. Tech accessibility has improved in major ways over the years, but it’s often tacked on well after products have launched. The reality is that people with disabilities often have to use products and services that do not have even the bare minimum of features to suit their needs.

“Clubhouses do not include the millions of people around the world who are deaf and hard of hearing,” says Adam Pottle, a deaf writer. “We can’t access these conversations, and it’s especially frustrating because many of the conversations happening on this forum are engaging and cultural and topical, yet we can’t participate in them.” Pottle noted that the title of the January Clubhouse blog was “more voices welcome”, but made no mention of transcription, sign language interpretation or captioning.

Now, with so many competitors working on social audio tasks similar to Clubhouse, it’s a prime opportunity to step back and see how each one approaches Reach. Some companies, such as Twitter’s Spaces, have more detailed accessibility strategies than others. But others, like Discord, already have voice or video functions that are at least partially inaccessible and don’t have many details to share. Here is a non-exhaustive list of current and upcoming Clubhouse competitors and how they stack up.

club house

availability: Available on iOS and Android, invite-only

background: In addition to its lack of captioning, Clubhouse also doesn’t support text resizing, which is essential for many people with low vision. While it was exclusive to iOS until last month, it didn’t support VoiceOver, Apple’s screen reading software, until February.

accessibility statement: “Our goal has always been to make clubhouses accessible to all,” says a clubhouse spokesperson. Clubhouse says it is “grateful” for the feedback from disability-related clubs built within the app, and says it is working closely with 15%, a club for people with disabilities and allies. Clubhouse says it plans to introduce closed captioning “in the near future.”

Twitter Space

availability: Can host accounts with over 600 followers, anyone can listen

background: Twitter faced criticism last year after introducing voice tweets without captions, which prompted the company to build an accessibility team and be more transparent about its accessibility efforts.

accessibility statement:Spaces have an option to turn on automatic captions, although they aren’t consistently accurate or easy to read. The buttons are labeled within the space so that screen readers can identify the function of each. twitter says it is working on improvement, which includes making captions more precise, enabling and preventing scrollback, customizing the color and size of captions, and possibly adding text input options other than speech.

discord stage channel

availability: in only community server

background: Discord already had voice channels, which don’t have built-in captioning. An Accessibility section was added to the user settings menu with options for low speed, autoplay and text-to-speech. end of April. It already supports screen readers, keyboard navigation, and third-party captioning and transcription.

accessibility statement: Like sound channels, stage channels currently have no built-in option for captions. A spokesperson said Discord is working on more ways to make the Stage channels accessible.

reddit talk

availability: currently in preliminary testing with subreddit moderators, possible plans for a big launch in the coming months

background: some blind people favor reddit favor on other social platforms because it’s a lot text-based. But the images still don’t have alt text, which is why a whole subcategory Number of volunteer copywriters who write image descriptions and video captions for as many posts as possible. Reddit has livestreams from 2019, but doesn’t yet have built-in captions.

accessibility statement: The version in testing does not have captioning. Reddit says accessibility, possibly including caption support, is a priority for the official launch, but didn’t provide any additional details.

facebook live audio room

availability: expected across Facebook this summer, including Messenger

background: Facebook enabled caption support for Facebook Live in 2017 and Added auto-caption Last year. This also corrected In its screen reader support, scalable font sizes were added last year, and Updates Its automatic alternate text in Jan.

accessibility statement: a facebook blog post Captions will be offered for the Live Audio Room and other upcoming audio features. Facebook did not respond to a request for more information about Accessibility’s plans.

dull audio meeting

availability: in present in test

background: Tired accessibility settings Includes screen reader support, keyboard navigation, adjustable zoom level, and toggles for emoji movement.

accessibility statement: Slack confirmed that its audio feature will have captioning, livestream transcription, and screen reader support.

Other Platforms

There are more platforms in the works with clubhouse-like audio rooms. LinkedIn didn’t share any details about its audio plans, but it did Add Automatic Captioning for LinkedIn Live earlier this year. Fireside, a combination podcast and live audio app planned to launch this year, said in a statement that providing accessibility options is “extremely important” and will have a range of features, including audio transcription. Spotify did not respond to a request for information about accessibility plans for its upcoming live audio conversations.

So far, none of these platforms create perfect templates for accessibility, and it’s hard to find popular sites that match each one. web accessibility standards. There are always many elements to factor in because the inefficiencies are so varied. Screen reader compatibility doesn’t mean it’s easy to use sites and apps without looking at the screen. Automatic captions are never completely accurate, especially for speakers with pronunciation and speech differences. There are other considerations such as color contrast, notification sound, and overall layout. A mobile app can be accessed in ways that a desktop app or web version cannot, and vice versa.

People with disabilities have repeatedly stated that access needs to be considered from multiple angles at every stage of development. A genuine commitment to accessibility looks like hiring people with disabilities, constantly seeking feedback, and being transparent about what works and what doesn’t. It’s easy for companies to issue vague statements saying they value access, but they have to prove it by actually working to make their products useful to everyone.

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