Twitter is down to less than 2,000 employees from 7,500 a few months ago and now US Senator Ed Markey has called on Twitter CEO Elon Musk to bring the accessibility team back as differently-abled people have reported increased difficulty and frustration using the platform.
In an open letter addressed to Musk, Markey wrote that Twitter has a responsibility to ensure that its platform is open and accessible to disabled users.
"Yet, you recently eliminated Twitter's Accessibility Team, which played a crucial role in developing and implementing essential features for Twitter users with disabilities," he told Musk.
Not surprisingly, "since you shut down Twitter's Accessibility Team", disabled users have reported increased difficulty and frustration using Twitter.
"I urge you to immediately reinstate Twitter's Accessibility Team and take all necessary steps to promote accessibility for disabled Twitter users," the Senator added.
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Musk just finished his fourth round of layoffs at Twitter, that impacted more than 200 employees like product managers, engineers, and a number of people in data science teams.
Markey said that Twitter's historical record on disability access was far from perfect, but in recent years, the accessibility Team markedly improved it.
Twitter's accessibility team was responsible for features that allowed disabled Twitter users to develop a community, advocate on key issues, organise, share information, and engage in commercial activity on Twitter.
These improvements included adding reminders for users to include alt-text for images to describe content for people who are blind or low vision; creating auto-generated captions on videos for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; and changing app sounds to make them more pleasing for people with sensory issues.
"Your decision to eliminate Twitter's Accessibility Team therefore represents a dramatic and unwelcome shift, one that has already had devastating consequences for Twitter users with disabilities," the Senator stressed.
Following the Team's elimination, Twitter Spaces no longer allows users to turn on automatic closed captions, preventing users who are deaf or hard of hearing from engaging with Spaces.
Additionally, the decision to no longer allow third-party app functionality with Twitter has eliminated necessary accessibility tools for disabled users.
For example, many people who are blind and have low vision preferred using third-party apps that were more compatible with screen readers than Twitter itself, but those apps are no longer available, Markey wrote.
Musk's recent decision to charge a fee for access to Twitter's application programming interface (API) has also sparked concerns that automated accounts that help users write alt-text for images, will cease to exist.