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Clubhouse's caption inaction - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #5

Clubhouse's caption inaction - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #5
By Liam O'Dell • Issue #5 • View online
Hello, friends!
Happy April and - ahead of Sunday - a very happy Easter to you too, if you celebrate it.
There’s no need to hunt around for the latest access updates, however, as this issue is choc-a-block with analysis and insight about all things tech, social media and accessibility.
We’ve now surpassed more than 100 subscribers, and cannot thank you enough for your support. If you know of someone who’d really like to receive this newsletter, just forward this to them and get them to click the link at the bottom of this issue.
Other than that, let’s dive into the latest developments!

🗞️ Read A11y 'bout it!
Chrome now instantly captions audio and video on the web
Automatic captions *finally* come to TikTok, several years after launch...
When Clubhouse Runs Out of Money
Spotify's diving into the world of 'social audio' now too...
🤦🏻‍♂️ Clubhouse banned a user for making their app more accessible
Jurgen 👨🏻‍🦯
I have been suspended from @joinClubhouse for providing a live transcription to a room. Yes, for providing accessibility. Even worse, was a member of the VI community that reported me to prove her point she wanted to make
Clubhouse have got some nerve. It’s been just over a year since the invite-only app launched and it’s still without automatic captions for deaf and hard of hearing users. There’s a particular irony to having people clamouring about to gain access to Clubhouse, only for the platform to then be inaccessible to deaf people once they secure their invite.
So, much like the TikTok news article I shared above, users are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to access. Creators on TikTok were already adding manual captions for several years before the platform realised that it should probably add that accessibility feature, given how common the practice of typing out transcriptions had become.
While incredibly late to the party, TikTok did the right thing to acknowledge what creators were doing due to the lack of a captions tool. What it didn’t do was ban accounts for providing more access, like Clubhouse did to one user last week.
That’s what happened to Jurgen, as the above tweet details. Fortunately, he managed to get his account restored, but it’s infuriating that they would be so stringent on unauthorised transcriptions (be it through automated or manual systems), while at the same time failing to understand that that is the only option people have in Clubhouse’s current state. If they don’t like that that’s the only accessibility option available to users, then they could just introduce that automatic captions function us deaf folks have been asking for for months now.
And in some cases, apps add captions long after they’ve peaked. Snapchat, while still boasting a respectable number of users, has paled in comparison to the shortform video platform TikTok, and Instagram’s ever-expanding Stories offer. In 2021, it’s only just started work on an automatic captions feature.
Better late than never, some might say, but it shouldn’t be this late at all…
🎙️ Stereo-hype
One social audio app, I’d argue, is tapping into online influencers a whole lot more than other live audio apps. Granted, Clubhouse has managed to bring on board the big names (Justin Bieber, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and others), but one would suggest that they’re more brands than content creators. Also, when you consider that Clubhouse is still an invite-only platform, bringing in high-profile figures to drive interest in the app is pretty meaningless if you have to gain access in order to listen to the respective rooms.
Stereo is the app which appears to be succeeding on that front. Bringing on board UK names such as Jack ‘JaackMaate’ Dean, Daniel ‘danisnotonfire’ Howell, Phil ‘AmazingPhil’ Lester and members of the YouTube supergroup, The Sidemen.
There’s also the ability to listen back to live podcasts after they’ve aired, which places it a fair way in front of Clubhouse (who refuse to allow any recording of rooms) and Twitter Spaces, who are still debating recordings and the long-term nature of conversations on the platform.
All of this, however, is undermined by the fact that captions still don’t appear to be available on the app, despite users requesting it back in December…
🤯 A solution to an irritating problem
Sarah L Sanderson
@JamesPrescott77 @Twitter You can turn it off. Settings --> Accessibility --> Reduce Motion.
Don’t you just hate it when you see a tweet and are mid-reading or mid-replying, only for your Twitter timeline to refresh and you end up losing it completely?
The tweet above is, at last, a solution.
🤔 What's in an emote?
Alessandro Paluzzi
#Facebook keeps working on the Live Audio rooms feature by adding the ability to send reactions 👀

ℹ️ The star ⭐️ icon should be something similar to badges on #Instagram, this means creators could monetize the Live in some way.
Leaker Alessandro Paluzzi has shared what appears to be the reactions available in Facebook’s live audio project (previously codenamed ‘Fireside’), and there’s something a little weird about Twitter have the better offering, despite Facebook introducing reactions first.
Of course, ‘like’, ‘love’ and ‘laugh’ have pretty universal usage, but it’s interesting to see them include ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ reactions in their list, something which Twitter steered away from including in their short selection because “[they] want the space to feel safe for folks to dialogue and that might be harder to do if dozens of listeners are cheering/booing”. Yet with limited feedback options available for listeners, and none of them allowing for negative feedback to be conveyed, I think that isn’t the best idea.
Full disclosure, I had previously told Twitter employees that they should replicate Facebook’s set of emojis, but a few months (and Spaces) later, I’ve realised just how bad that suggestion was. Twitter got rid of the raised hand emoji, and its current offering lacks certain indicators for live audio conversations.
It’s one thing sticking to company branding, but when live audio removes conversational cues usually given through facial expressions and body language (making things all the more harder for deaf and disabled people), emoji reactions are a lifeline for understanding the tone of the conversation. Raised hands, similar to the function on Zoom, would help us to understand when someone would want to speak, helping manage discussions and minimise crosstalk.
Let’s not forget what Twitter’s product lead Kayvon Beykpour told Platformer‘s Casey Newton last year:
“Our mechanics incentivize very short-form, high-brevity conversation, which is amazing and powerful and has led to all the impact that Twitter has had in the world. But it’s a very specific type of discourse, right? It’s very difficult to have long, deep, thoughtful conversations.
“Audio is interesting for us because the format lends itself to a different kind of behaviour.“
It’s clear that Twitter sees text as being rather limiting in some respects, with live audio allowing for more expansive conversations. Yet, with no in-Space live chat and a select number of emojis, if you just planned on listening to a Space, you only have a few options available to you with which to express yourself. It still feels rather limiting.
Liam O'Dell
Fascinating stuff as @etoile tests both her Android phone and iPhone in mine and @charlhyde’s Twitter Space. Her contributions on the iPhone were captions, but her speech on an Android device was not.

Why is that, @TwitterSpaces?
Another point on Spaces which is worth mentioning is a potential disparity with how automatic captions are used depending on whether you’re an Android or iPhone user. A quick test on a Twitter Space I co-hosted with my good friend Charlotte on 1 April revealed that captions came through on one speaker’s iPhone, but not on their Android device. Why?
Fellow iPhone users, a reminder that you have to grant permission for Twitter to access Apple’s speech recognition tool in order for automatic captions to work on Spaces. You may also need to turn on some in-app settings, too.
❗A reminder...
You really don’t need to censor swear words in a video’s captions.
Liam O'Dell
When the automatic captioning software censors the word ‘sex’ because it may be ‘potentially offensive’...
👋🏻 See you next time... on 16 April!
You’re up to date! I’ll be back, as always, in a fortnight to share the latest in tech, social media and accessibility.
Want to continue the conversation? I’ll be LIVE on Twitter Spaces at the later time of 6pm (BST) to talk through this issue. Thanks to everyone on Instagram who tuned in last time when Twitter was having problems.
Until then, I’m off to refine my Line of Duty theories - I’m so pleased it’s back on our TV screens!
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Enjoy your weekend!
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Liam O'Dell

I'm writing my first book, and I want you to follow my journey, but also motivate me to put words on a page.

Formerly 'The All-Inclusive Newsletter', this newsletter will share updates as I begin to compile my debut, but will also be a way for me to reach out with ways you can be involved, and support the work I'm doing.

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Hi, I'm Liam. I'm a Deaf and disabled journalist and campaigner who is now writing my first non-fiction book, and needs people to hold me accountable.

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