Twitter will add transcriptions for voice tweets to promote accessibility

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Twitter is working on adding transcriptions to voice tweets.


Angela Lang/CNET

Twitter said it’s working on adding transcriptions to voice tweets in order to make the feature, which it began testing in the summer, more accessible. This comes after many criticized the social media platform for not taking all users’ needs into consideration before the release.

“We’re rolling out voice Tweets to more of you on iOS so we can keep learning about how people use audio,” the company said in a tweet on Tuesday. “Since introducing the feature in June, we’ve taken your feedback seriously and are working to have transcription available to make voice Tweets more accessible.”

When Twitter first rolled out voice tweets, many took to the platform to voice their concerns about the company not making the feature accessible to people with disabilities.

“We’re sorry about testing voice Tweets without support for people who are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing,” the company tweeted in June. “It was a miss to introduce this experiment without this support. Accessibility should not be an afterthought.” 

At the time, Twitter added it had “fixed several issues related to vision accessibility, including making voice Tweets identifiable on the timeline and making accessibility improvements to the voice Tweet experience.” The company also mentioned then that it was looking into ways to support manual and auto transcriptions.

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Twitter’s voice tweets are rolling out to more iOS users, and transcriptions are on the way

Twitter has just expanded its voice tweets feature, which lets you record a snippet of audio to include with a tweet, to more users on iOS. But perhaps more significantly, Twitter is now saying it plans to add transcriptions to voice tweets to improve accessibility, which could help address criticisms from the feature’s June 17th launch.

If you want to get an idea of how voice tweets work right now, just press play on the below tweet to hear a voice clip from my colleague Tom Warren. There’s currently no way to see captions or a transcription of what he’s saying. (Note: Tom is not actually sharing exclusive next-gen console news.)

Without any way to see a transcription, voice tweets were quickly criticized for not being accessible. Then it came to light that there wasn’t a dedicated team at Twitter for accessibility — instead, the company asked employees to volunteer their time on top of their usual work to focus on accessibility. That all meant that one day after voice tweets were announced, the company told The Verge it was exploring how to make a “more dedicated group” focused on accessibility.

Twitter has since announced two new teams dedicated to accessibility, on September 2nd: one promoting accessibility within Twitter’s products, and one focusing on accessibility for Twitter as a business. And as part of that announcement, Twitter said it’s planning to add automated captions to audio and video on the platform by “early 2021.”

It’s unclear when transcriptions might be available in voice tweets. Twitter didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. And if you want to try voice tweets on other platforms, you might have to wait awhile — the company said on its Twitter Support account that voice tweets would be coming to Android and the