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I know about that Hotline thing... - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #6

I know about that Hotline thing... - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #6
By Liam O'Dell • Issue #7 • View online
Hello there,
A big welcome to those of you who may have stumbled upon this after coming along to The Staying Inn’s Social Media Accessibility Workshop earlier today, of which I was part.
For those unfamiliar, The Staying Inn is an online pub keeping the disabled community connected during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. You can find out more information about the project on its official website, and do consider sending over a bit of cash if you can, so they can continue to put on incredible events to support disabled people during a time like this.
If you missed the Social Media Accessibility Workshop, then you can buy the recording over on Flurly - how convenient!
And on top of that, you get this newsletter, which brings you all the latest news and analysis on social media, tech and access for FREE.
Keep on scrolling!
Liam

🗞️ Read A11y 'bout it!
Clubhouse Exclusivity Leaves Out Accessibility for the Deaf Community
No Slacking...
Are your cookie banners accessible?
Twitter finally enables dynamic text for iPhone users
🚆 National Rail's greyscale fail
National Rail
The National Rail website has been temporarily greyscaled as a mark of respect following the death of HRH Duke of Edinburgh. We are listening to feedback about how people are using the website and are making further changes today to make it more accessible to all our customers.
Last week saw the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and as the UK entered a period of national mourning, companies have gone black or grey as a mark of respect to the royal. Yet, while some did the standard gesture of applying this to their company logo, National Rail decided to go one step further, and apply a greyscale look to its entire website.
A nightmare for visually impaired and colourblind people, National Rail soon reverted its website back to its colourful version. While I’m a firm believer in the view that accessibility benefits anyone, it’s worth mentioning the flip side of that, too: inaccessibility benefits no one.
Heydon
Hate to be pedantic but the National Rail "going gray" thing didn't _create_ an #a11y issue, it disclosed one: if the design didn’t depend on color in the first place, it would be—and would have stayed—accessible.
This tweet from Heydon sums it up much better than I ever could. Sometimes companies pull out all the stocks to make their website, content etc. snazzy, lively and vibrant, at the expense of accessibility. I’m thinking playing about with colour, captions (filling them with unnecessary and obtrusive jokes) and more.
Start at the basic level of access, and then, if you plan to level it up some more for other reasons, consult accessibility experts to work with you to ensure that access isn’t lost when you do so.
💬 Now that captions are on TikTok, what took them so long?
A text box display on the TikTok app which reads: "Introducing auto-captions. Make your videos accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. Allow viewers to read what you're saying when it's difficult or inconvenient for them to listen to audio. By using automatic captions and uploading audio from your video, you consent to the collection and use of the audio to generate captions.' A red rectangular button below this reads 'Turn on captions'.
A text box display on the TikTok app which reads: "Introducing auto-captions. Make your videos accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. Allow viewers to read what you're saying when it's difficult or inconvenient for them to listen to audio. By using automatic captions and uploading audio from your video, you consent to the collection and use of the audio to generate captions.' A red rectangular button below this reads 'Turn on captions'.
You may remember in the last edition that I revealed that TikTok appeared to be working on an automatic captions feature for deaf and hard of hearing users. Well, in a news article from the shortform video platform last week, we finally have official confirmation that the tool is available on Androids and iPhones in the US and Japan - despite TikTok having years to sort this.
I understand that as it’s this fact - TikTok being around for three years now - that is behind their commitment to engaging with both users and creators to learn how the app can be more accessible. The company is yet to comment publicly on why it’s taken them so long, and if they’re arguing that they need three years to understand that captions are needed on their platform, then I really don’t believe that.
Let’s not forget that it was only in February that TikTok creators launched the #CaptionsForTikTok campaign calling on the platform to add automatic captions. I asked their press office about whether the new tool was introduced following this initiative, and did not receive a response.
TikTok’s news article reads:
“Captions added by creators are part of the video content, and in the event a viewer wants to turn them off they can do so by opening the share panel, tapping the captions button, and setting captions to off.
"This feature will initially be available in American English and Japanese, with additional language support in the coming months. We are working with our community to spread the word and encourage all creators to use auto captions and other features that make content more accessible.
Yet this second paragraph reveals a problem: it’s up to creators to make their content accessible, and we only need to look at the vast majority of YouTubers not captioning their videos to know that people don’t bother when access is optional and not seen as an expectation. I queried why TikTok weren’t enabling captions for all accounts so all videos are accessible by default, but I did not receive a response to this, either.
It’s one thing not having an automatic captions tool available for years, it’s another failing to recognise the issue of ‘creator apathy’ around captions which plagues many video platforms.
TikTok’s captions announcement is a welcome step, but does not go far enough.
📸 Going with the 'upload' flow...
📞 What the heck is Hotline?
We all knew it was coming… After Clubhouse got big, it was only a matter of time before Zuckerberg and the team at Facebook would throw their hat into the ring.
Issue #5 talked about the project - nicknamed ‘Fireside’ - and while it’s still in development, the company has ventured into social audio with another product, known as Hotline.
Unfortunately, it seems to be geo-locked to the United States at the moment, but there is something promising in early screenshots. Unlike its major competitor, Hotline appears to come with some form of captioning functionality.
Erik Hazzard
@LiamODellUK Hey, Liam. Thank you! Accessibility is important to us, and we'd love feedback from communities that directly benefit from these features. While we're testing the US to start, we plan to expand soon. If you add your name to the waitlist, you'll get an alert when that happens. https://t.co/pDJT2HgPDU
Even more promising is Hotline’s Erik Hazzard confirming to me that they’re keen to receive feedback from the disability community on how to make the application accessible.
I hope you’re taking notes, Clubhouse. This is how you do it.
👋🏻 See you next time... on 30 April!
And that’s all for this issue! I’ll be back again, as always, in a fortnight with the latest news and analysis on all things social media, tech and access.
We’re building up quite the community around these newsletters, but there’s always room for more. If you know of someone who might be interested, forward them this email or send them the link to my profile to get them in the loop. This is also the link to catch-up on past emails, if you’ve missed any.
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Until next time!
Liam
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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.

Sign up to The Book Accountability Project for updates on my writing progress when I have them.
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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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