When recently discussing the topic of digital social inclusion in regards to disability, access to social media websites was brought to my attention. Having worked in the field of social media, not to mention grown up using multiple social networks and blogs, I was curious as to what accessibility issues are present on social networks for those with a disability and how are social media companies trying to improve their accessibility, if at all.
In The Business of Digital Disability, Goggin and Newell (2007) investigate why accessible technology is not more common considering we now have a greater understanding of disability and how to design technology to be inclusive. They identify key arguments such as the reluctance to pursue the production of inclusive technology due to unprofitability. However, findings reveal that there is an evident market for universally designed products and accessibility can easily be incorporated into existing designs (NCD 2004).
Social media is a fast paced phenomenon and websites need to constantly adapt to stay in the game. So how are social networks developing and integrating inclusive processes? According to research done by Social Media News (2013) “Facebook is the biggest, largest and most engaging social network in Australia”. A study done by Media Access Australia in 2011, reveals that Facebook was basically inaccessible before 2008, however since then improvements have been made due to their work with the American Foundation for the Blind. Unfortunately issues still remain. These include the presence of a CAPTCHA during sign up, an obvious barrier for vision impaired, and videos uploaded to Facebook not supporting closed captions for Deaf or hearing impaired.
Improvements to social media websites, such as the introduction of closed captions options for videos on Youtube, are significant steps forward in accessibility however major kinks must be addressed. The right to access all forms of media, including online social media websites, should be held by all Australians, so those with disabilities can fully participate in society.
With closed captioning on Youtube, now we can all now learn “What’s the Most Dangerous Place on Earth?” or “Is the 5-Second Rule True?” from Vsauce. High five for science!
– Goggin, G & Newell, C 2007, ‘The Business of Digital Disability’, The Information Society: An International Journal, Vol 23, Iss 3, pp.159-168.
– National Council on Disability 2004, Design for inclusion: Creating a new marketplace, Washington, DC.