Reddit will make “accessibility improvements” to many moderator tools in its official mobile apps by July 1st, the company announced on Friday.
Some moderators rely on third-party apps because Reddit’s apps have what they characterize as “significant accessibility challenges,” and the accessibility community has expressed concerns over how they will moderate on mobile after popular apps like Apollo shut down on June 30th due to potentially expensive API pricing changes. It seems this roadmap, which promises improvements to features like the moderation queue and the ModMail messaging system on Android and iOS, is intended to assuage those fears.
Based on the replies to the announcement post, however, many are still unhappy with the company’s plans. “A multibillion dollar corporation forcing disabled people (including the profoundly disabled) to simply ‘learn new tools,’ and to stop using the accessibility tools they’re used to — the tools they depend on — to access / moderate the communities they depend on — is cruel,” wrote PotRoastPotato, a moderator who has advocated for disabled communities as part of the recent protests across Reddit. “As long as there are disabled users who depend on and are accustomed to the accessibility features of third-party apps, these apps need to be preserved,” PotRoastPotato added in an email to The Verge.
Reddit’s roadmap notes that some features won’t be available until late July or sometime in August, and some are critiquing the company for that choice. “Why are these not blockers that you are forcing Reddit to delay API changes for?” one user wrote. “Do you find it acceptable to have an inherently worse moderator accessibility experience while pulling the rug out from underneath the community?”
“We applaud Reddit for prioritizing these features, but would prefer a top-down corporate response that gives the product team enough time and addresses the broader community’s concerns,” the moderators of r/Blind said in an email to The Verge. They added that Reddit has invited the mods to help test the features, but the team has asked Reddit if this will be contract work and hasn’t yet heard back. The moderators also shared a statement on r/Blind responding to the updates.
Accessibility advocates have been among the most vocal protestors of Reddit since it became clear that the future of third-party Reddit apps was in jeopardy. In response to their outcry, Reddit said earlier this month that it will exempt accessibility-focused apps from its API changes, and at least three have received that exemption: RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna. But the API changes are also partially responsible for the planned June 30th shutdown of r/TranscribersOfReddit, a community that transcribes images, audio, and video for about 100 others.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman does seem committed to making accessibility changes; in response to a comment in his AMA that criticized Reddit’s approach to accessibility, Huffman said that “for our own apps, there is no excuse” and promised that “we will do better.” But the company didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment about if it would make changes to its plans in response to concerns from the community in Friday’s post. According to Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt, “We’ll no longer comment on hearsay, unsubstantiated claims, or baseless accusations from The Verge. We’ll be in touch as corrections are needed.”
Here’s Reddit’s full roadmap the company’s post, which is titled “Accessibility Updates to Mod Tools: Part 1.” In the post, Reddit promised to share another update on Friday.
How mods access Moderation tools (by July 1)
ModQueue (view, action posts and comments, filter and sort content, add removal reasons, and bulk action items) (by July 1)
ModMail (inbox, read, reply to messages, create new mail, private mod note) (by July 1)
User Settings (manage mods, approved users, muted users, banned user) (by July 1)
Community Settings (late July)
Ban Evasion Settings (late July)
Additional User Settings (late July)
Remaining mod surfaces (August)
Update June 25th, 5:02PM ET: Added link to statement from the r/Blind moderators.