Ever since I joined Twitter in March of 2008, at my first CSUN under the Mozilla banner, Twitter’s own web presence was always a bit, or even a lot, of a challenge to use for me as a screen reader user. While the initial version was still pretty straight-forward, as time went by and Twitter added more features and turned their web presence into a web app, the interaction became increasingly cumbersome. Fortunately, there are clients on various platforms that allowed me to access the service without having to rely on the web site. Even after the more strict API 1.1 roll-out a year ago, this situation hasn’t really changed for me.
A few months ago, I learned that Todd Kloots had joined Twitter. I knew Todd from when he was still at Yahoo! doing awesome things for web accessibility there. As time went on, members of the accessibility team at Mozilla, the NVDA developers, and Todd discussed various aspects of web accessibility, making it apparent that something good was happening at Twitter!
A few weeks ago, after a couple of tweets by Todd and others, I tried out the Twitter web app for the first time after a long while. And as was hinted in the tweets, the J and K keys suddenly started working much more nicely with the various browser/screen reader combinations I tried.
Yesterday, now, a post was published on the Twitter blog detailing some of the recent changes in accessibility of twitter.com, and an official accessibility team Twitter account was also announced. You can find the team at @a11yteam, and they welcome suggestions for further improvements.
If you are blind and want to try things out, you can do so right away by logging onto Twitter and reading your timeline. J and K will move you up and down through the timeline. Further keystrokes are available if you press the ? (question mark) key. Just remember, if you’re on Windows, you’ll have to turn off virtual cursor mode to be able to properly use them, as they will most likely be captured by the quick navigation key system of your screen reader otherwise. If you’re on the Mac, you do not need to do anything special.
I hope that Twitter will also pay equal attention to detail in their mobile web app, so the app you can get from the Mozilla Marketplace for both Firefox for Android and Firefox OS will be equally accessible. First signs of improvement are there, with tabs and buttons properly labeled nowadays. In addition, starting in Firefox 25, we have improved the way we execute touch events from within TalkBack and Firefox OS, so interaction should be just smooth!
This is exciting news, and I wish the Twitter accessibility team all the best in their future work on the web and native applications! As far as the web and mobile web presences are concerned, we at the Mozilla accessibility team will be here, ready to help wherever needed!