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The First Rule of Clubhouse is... - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #2

The First Rule of Clubhouse is... - The All-Inclusive Newsletter #2
By Liam O'Dell • Issue #2 • View online
Good evening, friend!
You may have seen that I mistakenly said in the very first edition that this would be landing in your inbox on 20 February. Oops.
So, just to be absolutely clear (and for the benefit of those new to this newsletter - welcome!) this is your fortnightly newsletter giving you the latest news and insights on all things access, coming your way every other Friday.
There’s a lot to discuss in this issue - particularly around audio. TikTokers launched a campaign calling on the platform to add automatic captions, Facebook’s revealed it’s looking into a Clubhouse rival, and I hopped on a Twitter Space with Matt Navarra.
All this, and more in this edition of The All Inclusive Newsletter.
Let’s dive into it!

🗞️ Read A11y 'bout it!
Clubhouse for Android is the ‘top feature’ in development, cofounder confirms
How Facebook’s ‘Fireside’ audio project can rival Clubhouse
#CaptionsForTikTok calls on app to improve access for disabled users
It’s time to tackle the creator apathy underpinning poor access online
Hey Siri, define 'accessibility'...
What does it mean to be accessible? That’s probably a question I shouldn’t have left until the second issue to ask and answer, but I was reminded of it again when the audio-based app Clubhouse unveiled its latest ‘accessibility improvements’. While VoiceOver would be getting better, the popular app - to no one’s surprise - failed to mention any plans to make itself accessible to deaf and hard of hearing users.
I remember previous conversations around how it’s impossible for anything to be “fully accessible”, because every single disabled person has different needs. The goal, therefore, is to include as many disabled people in the process, from the start, to understand what barriers may arise. Then, you can work on removing and mitigating for said barriers, rather than focussing on the impossible task of catering for every disabled person.
After all, some disabled people with specific conditions may struggle to access one thing, while others experience no barriers at all.
Why Is Facebook Rejecting These Fashion Ads?
Let’s talk algorithms…
It isn’t the first time that algorithms and systems have significantly disadvantaged certain demographics, with ‘algorithmic bias’ not being a new phenomenon. YouTube’s systems were criticised by disabled creators in 2016 for demonetising their content, while Instagram is still wrestling with a system which takes down posts about breast cancer awareness.
Unfortunately, when the social media giants of today were engineered by men who are straight, white, cis and non-disabled, algorithmic biases were to be expected. What we measure said platforms on now is their attitudes towards rectifying them.
YouTube has already announced that it’s soon launching a voluntary creator survey to monitor the impact of its algorithms on specific communities (although, disappointingly, not including disability at this stage). Twitter, meanwhile, is still struggling to address the abuse and ableism on the platform - as seen with certain trending hashtags used to criticise former US president Donald Trump.
While Facebook has its independent Oversight Board, none of the handful of cases selected by the group of academics look at content removed by the platform which concerns disability. Of course, the Board is likely to examine content of a more political nature with high levels of public interest (see their current case on Trump’s indefinite ban from Facebook and Instagram), but at least some acknowledgement of this kind of algorithmic bias would be welcomed in the future.
Algorithmic bias will always be a retrospective problem for platforms to tackle, but some sites just aren’t acting fast enough.
🔈 I'm going Spaces...
Liam O'Dell
Grateful to @MattNavarra for letting me nattering on about @TwitterSpaces’ accessibility this evening. Thanks to all those who tuned in to my rambling and shared their thoughts!
Imposter syndrome is a weird thing, huh?
Ever the opportunist, after seeing social media commentator Matt Navarra try out Twitter Spaces for the first time, I was keen to jump in and not only hear him test it out, but also chat about the feature’s accessibility, if possible. I soon ended up joining a virtual ‘stage’ with several experienced social media managers, and feeling very out of place as a result.
Nevertheless, there was a lot to be discussed about live audio’s potential: from the ‘authenticity’ which could help those with mental health issues to talk about their feelings, to celebrities using them as exclusive listening parties.
Of course, at this point, the Space has ended and so the above is devoid of some context, but I’m of the opinion that live audio chats like this shouldn’t be too perfect. In the age where a lot of social media feels flawless, we could do with a space (pun not intended) which allows for raw and unedited discussion there in the moment.
What do you think?
😬 Don't be an access hypocrite!
The UK Government promoted a series of posters on designing accessible content back in 2016, and while it’s not clear if the policy is still in place (it is still accessible online), they’ve certainly gone against their previous advice when you look at the guidance released during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Don’t use complicated words or figures of speech,” the poster reads. Yet during this crisis, we have heard several phrases used by the Government which are detailed and convoluted. “Make users read long blocks of content”, it goes on to state, without realising that the guidance on the national lockdown is just mounds of text.
This is made all the more important when recent research from Open Inclusion and Heriot-Watt University found that the “majority” of GOV.UK guidance on coronavirus demands a Year 9 reading age to understand it. Information on education and childcare, as well as what people can and cannot do, required a university reading level.
Commission disabled people to co-produce accessibility guidance with you, pay them, and practice what you preach.
👋🏻 See you next time… on 5 March!
You’re up to date! I’ll be back next month to share the latest in tech and accessibility.
Until then, I’m off to go and water my pot plant, which somehow is still alive.
As always, if there’s something you’d like to see in these newsletters, or any other feedback, reply to this email or ping me a DM over on Twitter.
Next issue will be the final one before I start to spread the word on social media. If someone you know might be interested in receiving these emails before it was cool, forward them this email, or sign up via my Revue profile.
Enjoy your weekend!
Did you enjoy this issue?
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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