Twitter’s workforce has shrunk from 7,500 to 2,000, and last year’s layoffs eliminated the accessibility team.
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) urged Elon Musk to reinstate the accessibility team in an open letter.
“Not surprisingly, since you shut down Twitter’s Accessibility Team, disabled users have reported increased difficulty and frustration using Twitter,” Markey wrote.
In 2020, Twitter didn’t have an accessibility team, but after public outcry over voice tweets without captions, it did. In the few years Twitter had an accessibility team, it introduced alt text on images, automatic captioning on videos, and captions for Spaces live audio rooms and voice tweets. Twitter’s accessibility features helped disabled users connect.
With no accessibility team at Twitter anymore, it’s not as though the platform’s features have simply remained dormant. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users cannot use Twitter Spaces because captions have disappeared. This tells disabled users that Twitter HQ no longer discusses accessibility (which, by the way, the company has stopped paying rent for).
Twitter’s API shutdown hurt accessibility. Third-party developers will now have to pay unknown monthly fees to build on a platform that previously welcomed them for free. This means that popular accessibility apps like Ironfactory’s Twitterrific are no longer available.
“I received more than a few emails from Blind users who were upset and outraged because they would most likely have to stop using Twitter without accessible third-party clients like Twitterrific,” Ironfactory co-founder Gedeon Maheux told Forbes.
Markey asked Musk to answer several questions by March 17. Markey asks about why Musk eliminated the accessibility team and if he will reinstate it, Twitter’s compliance with ADA and FCC accessibility regulations, why Twitter removed captioning from Spaces, and if the platform will commit to creating user-friendly experiences for all kinds of content.
“All of these changes under your leadership signal a disregard for disabled people,” Markey wrote to Musk.