2021 Technology Industry Accessibility Report Card

Photo Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters


In all the dramatic events surrounding Facebook, its whistleblowers, and this year’s name change, it’s easy to overlook the company’s accessibility-related updates. In early 2021, the company updated its Automatic Alt Text (AAT) system to recognize more than 1,200 objects and concepts in Instagram and Facebook photos. According to Meta, this is 10 times more than AAT’s debut in 2016. It also introduced additional features for Facebook on iOS, providing more detailed descriptions, such as the location of objects in the picture and their relative sizes.

Unfortunately, when rolling out these updates, Facebook may have broken some accessibility features in the process. Rachfal said that when the company shut down its facial recognition system this year, there were fewer descriptions of users who were blind or had low vision. Rachfal stated that this change was “for privacy considerations,” and he believes that these decisions were made without considering accessibility and the disabled community. “They also didn’t give the same attention and consideration to privacy issues,” Rachfal added.

Facebook November. The company’s vice president of artificial intelligence, Jerome Pesenti, wrote in it: “We need to weigh the positive use cases of facial recognition with the growing social issues, especially when regulatory agencies have not yet provided clear regulations.”


In the post, Pesenti acknowledged the key role that face recognition plays in AAT, which can help blind and low-vision users recognize their friends in pictures. However, while some facial recognition tools such as identity verification will remain, in most cases, features such as reminding users that they might include their photos or automatically tagging their friends are disappearing. This is suitable for users with sight and visual impairment.

“We know that the method we chose involves some difficult trade-offs,” Pesenti wrote, adding that “we will continue to participate in the dialogue and cooperate with the civil society groups and regulators leading this discussion.”

Elsewhere in the Meta product line, the company added an accessibility tab to the Oculus settings menu to make it easier to find accessibility features. It also brings color correction and enhanced view tools to provide a clearer color palette and stand-up viewing angles for sitting users, respectively. Meta stated that it is still iterating Raise View, working with the Oculus community to improve the feature, and adding it permanently to the accessibility menu when it is ready.

Meta is also cooperating with ZP Better Together, a company that provides technology for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. exist From December, people who are deaf or hard of hearing can also apply for the free portal provided with the ZP application on the ZP website.

This undated handout picture obtained by Reuters depicts a new model of the Facebook portal video call device.  Facebook/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS-This image is provided by a third party.Mandatory credit

Handouts. / Reuters

Facebook This year, especially since the beginning, real-time subtitles have been included.It also includes a visual cue to indicate who is talking and provides subtitles for other audio products, such as And podcasts on iOS and Android.

Let us not forget that the company changed its name to Meta this year and its new focus on Meta Festival. Mike Shebanek, head of accessibility, said, “We are already working hard to bring Metaverse to life and are happy to explore the breakthrough possibilities it brings to make the digital world more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.”

We will have to wait to see if and how this can be achieved, but at the same time, Meta must continue to interact with the accessibility community to ensure that its expansion of Metaverse is inclusive from the beginning.


Twitter only established two accessibility teams last year, after the embarrassing launch of voice tweets, the lack of subtitles excluded users who are deaf and hard of hearing. However, since then, the company has shown significant progress. In 2021, Twitter introduced subtitles for voice tweets, added subtitles and accessibility tags to Spaces, and brought automatic video subtitles. According to the company, the last one is “available globally in most languages” and supports Android, iOS and the web.

Although this seems to be a small update compared to the other companies in this review, Twitter’s product portfolio is also smaller. Nevertheless, it has made major changes. Rachfal praised Twitter as “the first social media platform to significantly prompt users to include alternative text in pictures,” although he did point out that filling in this field is still optional.

Other notable technological developments this year

Alternative text and subtitles are still tricky auxiliary functions in the industry. They are labor-intensive processes that companies tend to delegate to AI, which can lead to garbled and inaccurate results.This was especially evident at this year’s Virtual E3 Game Conference, where Sometimes people who rely on subtitles to understand the announcement cannot understand the program.

A large part of the online world is also in urgent need of accessibility-related upgrades. According to a study in February 2021, For example, up to 97.4% of websites have the error of not passing the web content accessibility guidelines (). The most common errors include missing alternate text, low-contrast text, missing form input tags, etc.

It’s not just websites that need work: other media formats also need more inclusive designs. For example, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), This year, confronted the three major podcast providers with Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora.

A banner showing three Spotify screenshots, with a transcription example on the left.


According to NAD, because the three defendants “did not provide transcripts or subtitles for any podcasts available on their platform, more than 48 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans were deprived of full and equal access to the hearing content they provided. .” At the same time, Spotify It will start to provide automatically generated transcripts for podcasts and Amazon Music November.

Then accessibility improvements are available to the entire industry. Rachfal pointed out that healthcare is an ongoing problem for people who are blind or visually impaired. “This is still an entire industry that we often hear from members,” he said. Given that we are currently in the quagmire of the third wave of COVID-19, it is unforgivable to continue to exclude persons with disabilities from arranging vaccination or testing appointments.

In November of this year, the Ministry of Justice It has reached a settlement with Rite Aid to make the COVID-19 testing and vaccination website accessible. Rite Aid’s vaccine registration portal is not compatible with certain screen readers and cannot be accessed by “those who have difficulty using a mouse”. For example, the calendar on its website “does not show any available appointment times to screen reader users”, and people who rely on keyboard-based navigation instead of a mouse cannot use the Tab key to complete the consent form required to schedule an appointment.

ACB is also working with CVS to provide accessible prescribing information at all locations in the country.This includes a Voice receiving function This will read the prescription label through the CVS Pharmacy app.

Although there have been many violations in the past year, we have also seen many promising developments in ensuring technological inclusiveness. Take the U.S. Federal Communications Commission as an example, Make emergency alerts more useful and informative for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

On November 9, 2011, a television monitor in Washington, DC showed a new emergency alert system (EAS) test.  The FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted the first nationwide testing of the national emergency alert system.  EAS participants broadcast warnings and warnings about severe weather warnings, kidnapping of children, and other types of emergencies.  EAS alerts are transmitted via radio and television broadcasting stations, cable television and other media services. AFP Photo/KAREN BLEIER (Photo source should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Karen Blair via Getty Images

At the same time, HBO Max will launch 1,500 hours of audio description content starting in March 2021, and promise to include descriptions in all newly produced original content and add more content to its backup catalog.In addition, cooperate with Inclusive Fitness Alliance, Planet Fitness It will purchase and install barrier-free fitness equipment in stores across the country.

In this update review, I just scratched the surface. However, the most encouraging thing is that companies are increasingly willing to work with disability rights groups and advocates in the early stages of product design. Lizzie Sorkin, Director of NAD Participation, said, “I see more and more companies contacting us at the beginning stage, rather than later in the process.” Rachfal also pointed out that “the commitment to accessible media and content continues to increase.” This is “the publicity work of ACB and audio description projects produced through discussions with the industry.”

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