Ever wondered what “Vorsprung durch technik” means? If you remember the Audi adverts in the UK from the 1990s, you’ll know it stands for excellent design and precision engineering. It actually translates as “Advancement through technology”, a concept that neatly sums up Dennis Lembree’s work on Accessible Twitter. Accessible Twitter is a wonderful example of accessibility in motion. It’s based on Twitter’s API, so you log in with your usual username and password. After that, the experience is remarkably different from Twitter’s own rather mediocre website.
So what makes it different?
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) landmarks are for people who don’t use a mouse, and for screen reader users. Landmarks are key areas of a page, such as the navigation, search, or main content area. ARIA makes it possible for keyboard only users and screen reader users (providing their screen reader has ARIA support), to jump between each of the different key areas of a page at a single keystroke. For example, people using the Jaws screen reader can use the ; key to jump from one landmark to the next. When a landmark is reached, Jaws announces “Navigation landmark”, “Search landmark” and so forth. Accessible Twitter makes use of these ARIA landmarks to provide yet another way of navigating through each page.
So why didn’t Twitter do all this?
Good question. I wish I knew, although I have my suspicions of course. They either didn’t think, didn’t know, or didn’t care. Actually, Twitter didn’t do a bad job. They just didn’t do a damned good job like Dennis Lembree has done with Accessible Twitter. In other words, the Twitter website is not inspiring. Accessible Twitter on the other hand is a glorious example of advancement through technology.