For the past couple of weeks, I have been on facebook, fairly active and experimenting. I started out with just a couple of friends, but through the power of this social media, in the past few days, I now have almost 50 friends. I have figured out how to link my facebook with my twitter, so that when one is updated, they both show status changes. I have experimented with updating via my cell phone using a software called Talks. I have found people I hadn’t talked to in years and it has been great connecting with them again. I have and will continue to notify all of my friends when I post to this blog.
So as you can see, I have found many fun things and other advantages to using this social networking platform. Now that is the good, but now I’m going to tell you some bad and downright ugly barriers I have encountered while using this site and its features.
Signing up was a bit of a challenge. I had trouble with the visual verification, which had an accompanying audio capcha that I could not understand. I finally contacted customer service and had them create an account for me. They were very nice, but it did take a week or so to have my account created, something I found a bit frustrating.
The main page functions pretty well. There are several marked up headings so that I can navigate quickly to certain areas of the page. With a bit of effort, I can read all of my friend’s updates and statuses. Of course the more friends I add, the longer this process is. I tried out the mobile version of the site and found that, though it was more compact, there were no headings so quick navigation wasn’t always so quick.
Now to adding friends. The “friend finder” application works pretty well. I can search for friends and all of the edit boxes are tagged so that I know where to put their name and/or e-mail address. However, when I press enter or space on the “add as friend” link, the pop-up window that has you confirm that you want to send them a friend request is not read by jaws in normal mode. Sometimes I could find it using the jaws cursor and actually clicking on the button with the mouse, but that is a work around and I would not consider this to be accessible.
If someone sends me a friend request, I am able to go to that link from the e-mail and easily find the confirm button which is tagged. If I go into someone’s friend list and want to add one of their friends, I encounter the same barrier and have to use my work around to press the “add friend” button in the pop-up window.
Another area that I had difficulties in was adding photos, even putting one as my profile picture. I actually had to have my sighted husband upload a photo to my profile, since it was required to drag and drop the file into a certain area. I also cannot add photos to my profile, which is frustrating. Even though I am blind, I do have pictures that I’d like to share.
The last thing that I tried and had little success with involves some of facebooks optional applications. “We’re related,” and “My girls” are the two I tried to use and was unable to. They require you to check the friends you want to add to a group list, for examples selecting all of your relatives who are on facebook. The check boxes did not seem to show checked when I’d simply press space or enter on them and it was impossible to tell who you have selected and see the button to submit your selections.
Overall, I have been having fun with facebook. Could they improve their accessibility? Oh yes, for sure! Do the barriers I encountered keep me from wanting to use facebook? No, but that is not to say that it wouldn’t keep another blind person from bothering with it. With social media becoming so prevalent in our society, there is definitely a need to make these accessible to everyone, not just those who can point and click.