No longer accessible to all
Hello, I am writing to express my disappointment. I used to use the Duolingo app for iOS to learn Dutch, but now it is inaccessible to all blind learners. A few versions ago a change was made to the list of lessons and now it is impossible to pick one using iOS voiceover. Instead of being separate selectable items, all the lessons that appear on one line are spoken as one. I am thoroughly confused about how this mistake in coding was made. There should be no reason why the list presented in columns should create any problems for voiceover, so something has to be coded incorrectly. Since you state ”ur ultimate goal is to give everyone access to a private tutor experience through technology.” And since it worked in the past, I am hoping this will be fixed soon. I hope that this was an accident that no one was aware of, and not something that is being deliberately ignored, because learning languages is very popular among blind people. I am far from the only person who has been very disappointed with The sudden lack of access in Duolingo.
I tried to switch to learning through the website, but although I can pick lessons without any difficulty on the website, there is still an accessibility problem. The “Button” to play the audio of spoken phrases to be typed or translated is not actually a button. This also makes no sense. A real HTML button would have the same functionality for everyone. It would work for people using screenreaders, keyboard without mouse, and other access technology. It would not take away any functionality from sighted people using a mouse or touchscreen. If you need help with accessible design I recommend reading Apple developer documentation on accessible UI. You can also find help from both developers and users of iOS voiceover on the applevis.com website.
Another option is to submit a bug report: https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/requests/new
I hope they can fix this issue. Accessibility is very important. My godmother is blind and I didn't even realize Duolingo would have been accessible to her before. :O
Edit: YAY! Staff have seen this discussion and they are working to fix the situation to restore accessibility. See Vivisaurus' comment. :D
Hello Sarah, thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, this was certainly not intentional. A fix is on its way, please refresh and try it out again today, and keep checking it out in the coming days too, to see if it is working properly. Sorry for the inconvenience this caused!
EDIT: The fix should be working for web first, iOS is coming shortly after—keep checking throughout the week. Thanks to our dev team for being so awesomely quick on fixing this!
Thank you so much! I was pretty sure that no one was aware of the issue until it was tweeted about, but then I wasn’t so sure. I’m sorry it took me a while to figure out how to communicate the problem. For some reason I didn’t immediately find the link to leave a message here. I will patiently await the app update. As soon as I noticed it I will spread the word about it being accessible with voiceover again. Your work will be very much appreciated.
As a son to two blind parents, I think accessibility is very important. This site was founded on the ideal of bringing language learning which is effective, fun, and most definitely accessible to the masses. And you can use it for free.
While I am so grateful to duolingo for having created their wonderful website and apps, it would be nice to see a bit more work on the accessibility side for blind users.
Perhaps this can be remedied in the settings somewhere, but one thing I know which would trip up my mother, who does try to use the duolingo app on iOS, are the questions in which you must select among the words shown on the screen to create your sentence rather than type it. This is extremely time consuming if you have to first click on each word to hear what it is and then find each one you are looking for to create the sentence.
If there is no option to turn this off in settings in the app, I think it would be a good addition to ensure a smoother experience for those using voiceover, or other screen reading apps on android.
Also my mother tends to find that voiceover reads over the sentence as it is being read out and then must struggle to get the sentence to be read again by the text-to-speech engine.
Also, when you get the questions with pictures, this is essentially useless for visually impaired users. Again, unsure if this is changeable through settings, but if there were a setting to optimise for visually impaired users which can find an appropriate replacement for the photo based questions, that would be a big help.
I would recommend reaching out to some organisations for the visually impaired to hear experiences from visually impaired users for more comprehensive feedback.
I understand that tapping each word to create the correct sentence is time consuming, and I find it does make my wrists a bit tired, but I don’t think there is a better solution. I don’t always have a hardware keyboard around so typing on the touch screen isn’t always faster. It is also helpful to see the spelling of the words again. I could wish for a divider of some kind that VoiceOver could detect just to make sure my last word is added to the sentence and not still at the top of the list of options. I haven’t noticed any questions with only pictures, so I’m guessing that the pictures have labels with the words. I am trying to think of a way to help your mother with Voiceover so that reading the sentence is easier. Does she know how to use the VO rotter to switch to reading by word or character when flicking up or down? Another helpful trick is to mute VO before tapping the play button for the audio questions. Tapping the screen twice with 3 fingers will mute and unmute VoiceOver. There are still a few things to be fixed, but overall the app works well again.
Normally when my mum has tried switching off VO with a three finger double tap, it doesn't seem to react, which is odd. Instead she has had to triple tap the home button. Could be a settings issue of some kind. Will look into it. She finds she has to hold the phone in her right hand while navigating with the left, and can't switch off VO at the moment without using her left hand to kill VO with the home button, thus losing her place on the screen.
She is using an iPhone SE which has a rather small screen, and she finds the navigation of the app tricky as she can easily miss things where a button is very small, such as the repeat audio button. She also has ME though, which tends to make her brain feel "foggy" as she describes it, which is also likely a contributing factor to her difficulty in getting used to the app.
Will go through some lessons with her using your advice. If you are able to manage fine on iOS, then she should be able to as well. She just might need some guidance and advice on how best to use VO with the app and get used to the variances in formatting. Thanks a lot for the advice!
Hi, thank you for the change to the list of lessons. It now works just as it should again. :-) I have noticed another accessibility issue. When the app presents an ad the button to go ad free is available to VoiceOver users, but the button at the top of the screen to close the ad is not. My contrariness makes me feel that paying to go ad-free would only appeal to me if the app was totally accessible, which it is not because the close ad button doesn’t work for me. ;-) Could this be fixed as well? Please...