Has Facebook Turned Over a New Leaf?

I can’t remember the last time I visited Facebook. What I can tell you is why I stopped using the social network…

Trying to do anything on the main site was an uphill battle. My screen reader-browser combination (JAWS 13 and IE 11 on a Windows 7 machine) found the going sluggish. Navigation (eg, jumping from heading to heading) became unresponsive at times. Pages kept refreshing despite my attempts to switch off autorefresh. Page layout was confusing and there were ads everywhere. The drop-down menus were a nightmare to use, and I couldn’t find the gear icon to change my settings. 😦

I had better luck with the mobile version of Facebook. The site was responsive, page layouts were uncluttered. Messaging worked particularly well. But not all the features available on the main site had been implemented on the mobile version. For example, I didn’t have access to all of my settings, and try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to post a link without an image.

For me, the Facebook experience proved too much of a chore and not enough of a pleasure to justify the effort, so I signed out and never went back.

But in February, a WIRED article called Meet the Team That Makes It Possible for the Blind to Use Facebook caught my attention. I cynically dismissed it as a puff piece and wondered if they were talking about some other social network that also happened to be called Facebook because what they were describing was so at odds with my experience.

I was forced to re-examine my position, however, when Marco Zehe praised Facebook for the work they had done to improve their accessibility in his Social networks and accessibility: A not so sad picture blog post. And when AFB AccessWorld published Facebook Accessibility for Users with Visual Impairments: What Facebook Wants You to Know in their April issue, I knew the tide of opinion had turned.

In the light of these positive reports, I’ve decided to give Facebook another try. I’ll report back here at some unspecified future date with my findings. In the meantime, wish me luck! 😉

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