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Wednesday, 05 August 2015 06:27

Shame on You Facebook, Shame on You

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My Grandad and I have a special relationship, particularly since my Nan died.

We live 200 miles apart and don't see each other as much as we would like to, at 75 he hasn't been too keen on technology making communication between us difficult.
He had an old Nokia mobile phone for years but only used it now and then.
Being deaf / deafblind it was hard for me to communicate with him by telephone using my old hearing aids, so although I knew he was and is always there for me I was often isolated from him and him from me.

My parents had offered to buy him an iPad for Christmas over and over and he continuously said no until last Christmas when he had a change of mind.

I am deafblind and my Grandad is 75 but we both benefit from the same accessibility settings on the iPad.
Simply being older means his sight and hearing isn't as good as it was and he lives alone so could become isolated.
I set my Grandad's iPad accessibility features the same as my own, larger bold font for text and the loudest sound.

I asked him about his interests and found him a few apps that he would use and made sure the apps that had accessibility features were set in the most appropriate way for him, large and bold text and loud enough sound if necessary.
The next most important thing for us was for me to show and explain how FaceTime works so that he and I could communicate with each other and also with other family and friends living far away or abroad.
I think even he was surprised by what the iPad could do and that it wasn't as complicated or difficult as he had thought.

I enjoyed helping my Grandfather access the things I rely on, it also gave him an idea of how I cope and access life and more importantly how I access people with the great modern technology I have access to.
Usher Syndrome is isolating, not just because of the deafblindness but because of the additional challenges like communication, mobility, loneliness all of which often result in depression. The elderly and other disabled groups often face very similar challenges!

Since Christmas my Grandfather has shocked my brother by Facetiming him in Spain and Facetimes me regularly which is great and also amusing as it's something I think he still finds quite amazing each time he does it.

I am also lucky that earlier this year I started using new hearing aids, Linx2 by Resound, having these means I can now hear much better on my iPhone which makes a huge difference to me, prior to these fantastic "smart aids" I tended to just text which is great but not the same as hearing somebody's voice.

I advocate for those with Usher Syndrome (deafblind) we rely on good accessibility features with everything and it really isn't difficult to provide with modern technology yet Facebook one of the biggest most valuable companies does not consider the needs of people like myself or my grandfather important.
The deafblind, blind and visually impaired communities may be relatively small but the ageing population is growing fast so surely it makes absolute sense to make access for all or risk isolating huge numbers of vulnerable people.

I wrote a blog about accessibility and my use of the Applewatch at the end of April and was contacted soon after by an IOS developer at Facebook inviting me to visit their London Offices to discuss "Our recent accessibility projects and to listen to my Keynote presentation".
Sadly this did not take place as Facebook expected my time for free! Keynote Presentation is my job and I cannot afford to do everything for free and certainly not for multi billion dollar companies.
However, being passionate about accessibility I offered to do a keynote presentation for a donation to my charity Facebook again declined.

I was very disappointed about this as I have struggled to access Facebook on iPhone for years due to the poor accessibility and I am not alone, this followed by more changes, this time on iPad making access more of a challenge.
It's very sad to think this particular developer had the desire to listen to somebody totally reliant on good accessibility but it never happened because of a fee or donation, shame on you Facebook.

My biggest questions are why hasn't this multi billion pound company considered the accessible features that so many other much smaller companies have? Why is there no option to enlarge text or change colours and contrasts? Why is it not important to consider all and lastly why did I read this piece from The Washington Post? via Twitter - who's access features are great.

"Advances in technology are driven by people. So it is critical that the people creating new technologies understand accessibility," said Jeff Wieland, head of accessibility at Facebook. "Our hope is that together we can tackle this systemic challenge and find ways to make accessibility fundamental to one's learning path in technology."

I believe Facebook are aware they fall foul of the most vulnerable and clearly do not understand accessibility.

Frustrating to know from this great piece by Mark Dalton that changes can be made but just aren't and in the meantime social isolation comes closer and closer.


Please consider signing our petition and help get Facebook to rethink their accessibility features:


Shame on you Facebook, shame on you..

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