“They’ve been very strong,” said Scott Blanks, vice president of the nonprofit Lighthouse for the Blind. “Now they are all gone.”
Despite its late start, Twitter has established itself as one of the most influential social networks in the last two years. “Twitter was setting the example,” says Neil Milliken, global head of acquisitions at Atos.
Now it is setting a very different precedent. Without proof that the company has changed its accessibility practices, there will be no one left to ensure that the facility complies with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Failure to monitor or verify the availability of new apps and services puts Twitter at risk of violating the ADA,” Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, told WIRED in an email. This backward swing is in stark contrast to other Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google, all of which maintain dedicated access teams.
For people who have access to it, losing this group is a scary and shocking story. Milliken called it “destructive.” For Vogler, it’s “disgusting.” Stacy Marie Branham, a professor at the University of California, Irvine who studies accessibility, tells WIRED that it’s “racist and ridiculous.”
Of course, this description can be applied to the entire process of getting fired from Twitter. It is not clear how long the company will continue to operate as the disruption continues and it is losing employees. Already, the seams are seriously damaged. Two-factor authentication was compromised last week, locking some people out of their accounts and sparking fears of a major security breach. As more and more employees quit their jobs rather than take on Musk’s negative vision for the company, there is a chance that the entire site could sink.
The group’s problem is a metaphor for what is plaguing Twitter as a whole. It wasn’t perfect, but it was working. It was moving forward. Now, it’s not just that it doesn’t exist, what they built is in danger of being wiped out. There is no communications department left at Twitter; When I tweeted at Musk asking what his plans were for availability, he did not respond. There is no evidence Musk knew the group existed before he left them; several people WIRED spoke to about the story said the most memorable thing he did when it came to disability was making racially insensitive comments. Tourette syndrome.
In a kick-’em-when-they’re-down twist, losing Twitter will affect some disabled and neurodivergent communities especially hard. They have spent years establishing relationships on Twitter. They know Twitter. There is no known replacement. Mastodon, for example, is being developed as a replacement for Twitter—but it comes with its own set of challenges. “The findings are odd,” says Vogler. They will notice that there is no way to add audio files for videos, for example.
Although other high-quality networks have emerged, the problem of losing access points will remain. Kim said: “I’m a bit shy about my family.