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7 July 2023

An iomage of two phones, one with the Threads logo, another with the Twitter logo. Both resting on a keyboard.

Meta’s latest venture, Threads, aimed at luring users away from Twitter, is receiving criticism for its lack of accessibility features, leaving users with disability feeling left behind. The new platform, despite its attempt to compete with Twitter, offers limited accessibility tools, customization options, and fails to provide comprehensive information about its commitment to accessibility.

Accessibility advocates and web experts argue that inclusive platform design should be a priority from the very beginning of development. Universal Design principles emphasize the creation of environments and tools that can be used by everyone without the need for specialized accommodations. While websites have been adopting international accessibility standards, social platforms have been slower to follow suit.

Threads, being a platform centered on text, images, and video sharing, should have prioritized accessibility. Unfortunately, it appears that the app’s accessibility features are not easily discoverable, and there is a lack of an accessibility statement outlining the app’s commitment to digital inclusion.

Users have highlighted several areas where Threads falls short. Firstly, the platform does not allow user-generated alt text for images, which hinders users who are blind or with low-vision from accessing visual content. Customizable alt text generated by users themselves is a crucial step towards normalizing digital accessibility.

Additionally, Threads lacks options for adding custom captions to videos, preventing individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, from fully engaging with the content. The absence of subtitled videos further adds to the exclusion of these users.

Furthermore, Threads is currently only available as a mobile app, limiting access for those who prefer or rely on larger desktop screens and desktop-specific accessibility features.

The platform also lacks customizable text features, such as dynamic font, font scaling, and color contrast, which could improve readability and reduce eye strain for some users.

While Meta has acknowledged that core accessibility features available on Instagram, such as screen reader support and AI-generated image descriptions, are also enabled on Threads, the initial launch failed to include other essential accessibility features found on its sister platforms, Instagram and Facebook.

Meta has the opportunity to rectify these shortcomings in future updates. The company has already made changes within the first 24 hours and plans to integrate ActivityPub, an open social networking protocol established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which could improve user experience.

However, the lack of attention to users with disability in Threads’ initial launch raises concerns about the platform’s commitment to inclusivity. It is crucial for Meta to prioritize the implementation of a comprehensive set of accessibility features, including highly descriptive alt text and high-quality subtitles, to ensure that all users, including those with disabilities, can engage in conversations and enjoy digital experiences without encountering barriers.

With Meta’s claim that Threads will “focus on kindness,” it remains unclear how accessibility aligns with the platform’s definition of inclusivity. As CEO and founder of web accessibility company UserWay, Allon Mason, stressed, social media should be accessible to everyone, including the 1 in 5 individuals living with disability.

To read more about Threads lack of accessibility, read the MSN article.