I said I’d chime in on this thread on Twitter a couple weeks ago. Better late than never. I believe I’ve read all the accessibility-related bits of this thread and i’m glad to see others raising and caring about that aspect.
The short version of the proprietary chat platforms and accessibility is that they aren’t accessible (or if they are, not productively so), and the short version of the “We’ll work on screen reader support” response is that 99% of the time they never do anything. The only reason I’m even mildly hopeful in this case is that it’s Mozilla asking, and so perhaps this time will be different.
But let’s assume that Discord goes ahead and does accessibility as top priority. They’re at least a year from being productive. It’s incredibly hard to take an app like this that wasn’t built with accessibility from day one and use Aria to “fix” the fact that you didn’t use HTMl right in the first place.
As a case and point, Slack. I’ve personally spoken with their accessibility team, have been using it for a year, and managed to accidentally and independently verify that the person leading their accessibility team is highly qualified. I’m really pessimistic when it comes to believing people are trying, but I have no way to spin Slack’s progress into that sort of narrative. A year ago it was hellish. Now it’s not hellish, but is still missing things and has bugs that make productivity lower than it should be. Some of the latest stuff (accessible search for instance) has come with an entirely new dialog for everyone, and my personal suspicion is that this was in part because it’s often literally easier to throw out the UI code and rewrite an accessible version than it is to retrofit.
Slack started off accessible enough that a 50 line or so Greasemonkey was able to get it far enough for me to use it with my job a year ago, before the improvements on their end achieved momentum. It was still horribly inefficient and buggy, but at least usable. Discord is starting in an even worse place than Slack.
Put simply, you need to be able to read messages fast enough to keep up with the chat while still being able to quickly reply simultaneously, generally navigate the app very quickly, and there’s a lot of big and little stuff that’s not obvious that has to go into it to achieve that goal. Slack was at least in a position where I could have made a list of what needed to happen a year ago, whereas Discord isn’t even far enough for me to get as far as reading messages at all last time I tried it. I haven’t tried it since whatever changes they rolled out recently, but the point I’m trying to make here is that even assuming goodwill and massive resources, it’s not going to be quick to fix.
I wish I could give a good alternative, but the only 3 platforms I’m aware of that are fully accessible to a degree wherein you can be productive are e-mail, XMPP, and IRC. Slack is ok. Everything else varies from can’t read the messages to could be fixed with some work. if Rust moves to a proprietary platform and cares about accessibility, I expect that pressure will have to be applied (and as I said above: it’s Mozilla, for once it’s a big enough org that that might work). we (blind people) aren’t powerful enough to get anything but empty promises on our own.
I also wish I could say that this is sufficient argument to stay on IRC or use mail, but the disappointing truth is that I do have to acknowledge that IRC is exclusionary for a lot of people. Being in the excluded group sucks, but nonetheless the excluded group here is a lot smaller than the group that would be included with the move to Discord and/or whichever other platform. I’d prefer something open source if only because there’s more of an opportunity there to fix accessibility and keep it fixed.
I’ll try to keep on top of this thread in order to answer questions, but my life is incredibly chaotic for the time being.