The social network Reddit has announced significant changes to how people will be able to access the platform from July. These changes will have major implications for blind people.
How people access Reddit
There are currently multiple ways to access Reddit:
- Reddit’s original website, often referred to as “Old Reddit”
- Reddit’s new website, often referred to as “New Reddit”
- Reddit’s official apps for iOS and Android
- third-party apps for iOS, Android, Windows, etc
Old Reddit, New Reddit and Reddit’s iOS app have significant accessibility and/or usability deficiencies for screen reader users. As such, most blind people access Reddit through third-party apps such as Dystopia, Apollo, BaconReader, RedditForBlind, and Luna For Reddit because the interfaces in these apps are often much more accessible than Reddit’s first-party offerings.
Third-party apps access Reddit through something called an application programming interface (API). The Reddit API exchanges information back and forth between a Reddit app and Reddit's servers. For example, if a user enters a subreddit, the API will send a request to Reddit to obtain the posts in that subreddit, which the app will then display to the user. When a user selects a post, the API will send a request to Reddit to obtain the content of the post and comments posted in reply to it.
Reddit provides API access to developers at no cost. But from July, Reddit will be introducing an exorbitant cost for it, and many app developers have indicated that they cannot see any way that they will be able to afford to pay for API access.
What you should do
Reddit has been unwilling to compromise with app developers, even those with highly popular apps. Reddit has also been unwilling to compromise with the moderators of r/Blind. It is now up to us to act.
Sighted Redditors who use third-party apps can make a decision on July 1 if they would still like to use Reddit despite third-party apps no longer being usable. Blind people do not have a decision to make—Reddit has effectively told us that we are dispensable.
When blind people could no longer use third-party Twitter clients, they were able to use the website and apps, which were already quite accessible thanks to the efforts of Twitter’s accessibility team. But Reddit has never had an accessibility team, so to lose access to third-party Reddit apps would sever the lifeline that blind people have to Reddit and signal the end of our thriving participation.
Reddit is a highly valued social network by its blind users. Other social networks are dominated by images and videos that are almost all out of reach. But there are parts of Reddit where you can scroll for hours without seeing an image, and where you can participate in conversations with millions of other people using highly accessible apps.
We should all value the benefits that come from having access to such a vibrant online community, and we should do everything in our power to ensure that this access is not taken away.
We advocate best when we come together as a community. We should all do our utmost to spread the word about this issue to influential people and organisations, and other blind people and sighted allies who can join in our advocacy. We should also share our concerns with Reddit so that they can understand the gravity of this situation. We must show Reddit that we are persistent and that it is unacceptable for access to regress. We need to show Reddit that we are a community who deserves to be placated, and that there should be no decisions about access to Reddit made without our involvement.