Accessibility for blind users

Dear Duo Lingo community, I am a blind software developer living in Germany, and I am currently using Duo Lingo with great success to improve the rusty bits and pieces of French I once learned at school. I don't actually need it for anything right now, it just seemed like a more meaningful thing to do in my spare time than playing casual games. In fact it feels much like playing a casual game, which is good! Being blind, of course, learning a new interface is always an adventure for me as I tend to run into hurdles which most sighted users don't even perceive. The same, to some degree, goes for Duo Lingo, but using the website I can get by as long as I ignore all the stuff about crowns, points, and making my avatar look fancier. But that's OK, I'm just here for the French and the fun of honing it. I'm more into self-realization than self-optimization, and so the gamification aspect isn't strictly necessary for me. However, there are two, let's say, real problems I am facing, and I'd like to discuss them here. First, the iOS app. It's actually usable for blind people with some patience and some trial and error, but it's not exactly user-friendly. The most notable problem for me is when it gives me a French sentence to be translated into German. It will show a list of words which are at my disposal, and I click on the words in the order in which they pertain to the translation. The problem is that this is time-consuming and takes away most of the flow experience because I spend a lot of time hunting on the screen for the next word. That is, I know the answer and could type it right in but the interface forces me to find it on the screen and thus slows me down. It would be such a nice improvement to the app if there was a keyboard I could bring up to just type in the German translation of what it's showing. The other thing I find frustrating is that I can't find any vocabulary lists for the various units/abilities. For example, sometimes I'd like to just review some words to do with clothing, or with food, but the only thing I find is a link to the vocab on Tinycards. Now I would definitely use Tinycards if it weren't for the fact that it is completely inaccessible to blind users, at least on the web. It seems like accessibility simply wasn't taken into account when it was designed. I believe that putting focus on accessibility would fit right in with the Duo Lingo philosophy of making language skills available to everyone. That mission statement is so wonderfully inclusive by definition, so why should anyone be left out? By the way, I tried contacting the Duo Lingo team directly via the "contact" link but the link does not work for me, in both Chrome and Firefox, which is why I'm involving the community in the first place. Let me conclude by applauding Duo Lingo for the brilliant work you are doing in removing language gaps. After all, reality itself is a language, whose syntax is what we call perception, and whose grammar is what we call physics. A self-transforming beautiful language whose structure our human languages are trying to map. Love and light, Felix

August 17, 2018


Thank you for this feedback! I am not staff, only a volunteer moderator. But, staff do visit the forums to read suggestions. I know that Duolingo has utilized accessibility suggestions in the past from our blind and deaf/hard of hearing, and dyslexic community members, as well as others If Duolingo writes down a suggestion they read from the forums, it could take 1-4+ years for it to be rolled out for everyone. This is because there are many things requiring tech and programming time, and only so much budget. So, things go onto a very long list. Then, they go through research and very many rounds of A/B testing. If a test feature passes all of the tests, it can then be rolled out. So, if it is a long time, please don't get discouraged. And please, bring the issue up in various ways over and over again in the forums. The more we raise awareness, the better. Hopefully, many people will upvote this post, and also feel encouraged to make future language-related posts about accessibility.

August 19, 2018

Hello. I was just walking by there when I saw your post. You are doing great job. I hope you will continue french. I hope lots of blind user will be able to enjoy and take profit from Duolingo. Go on !

August 18, 2018

I love that you don't let blindness get in the way of learning a language. I haven't seen a feature where text can become speech, but that would be helpful for visually impaired users. Are you learning French from German or English?

August 19, 2018

Hi! I am learning French from German. And I am trying hard not to let my blindness rule over my life, but admittedly it is a struggle, less because of my blindness in itself but mainly because of barriers thoughtlessly created by others. Let me put it this way: if a person in a wheelchair finds herself unable to enter a building because of a flight of stairs, the barrier is to be found in the stairs not the wheelchair, but even more, the barrier is found in the head of the person who designed it that way. So every time I find myself unable to use a function here or anywhere on the web, I remind myself: The road block is not inside of me but in the person who programmed this, and in those who designed it without thinking of accessibility right from the start because they were not in an inclusive mindset. I find it extremely sad that software developers in the 21st century, when starting a project, don't consider accessibility and then of course need years to put it in at a later time because it was neglected to begin with. But I live with it, bring awareness to it, use my word as my weapon to fight for a better world, and expose the mindsets leading to a worse one wherever I find them. Many people preferred it if I fell silent because it makes them feel bad, but that always happens when you try to change minds. All the best, Felix

August 19, 2018

I used to use the brailleNote app but with this new crown update it no longer works I can not load lessons. Now I use jaws on PC but this is more time consuming and there are some links that just do not work!

August 19, 2018

Hi Felix! I too am visually impaired, although not yet to your extent. There's this guy on Duo - I think his name was Philpot, or something. He seems to be on top of everything that is thrown at him, language-wise. He lives in the U.S. and has various visual aids I can only dream of! And they're free, whereas in the South Pacific I would have to pay zillions for the most basic thing: speech to text in various languages for example. This does nothing to solve your problem, but I was speaking to LindaKanga on this matter a long time ago. She may be able to send "Philly" as I called him an email, or something. My own username has since changed, but hopefully she will remember me! Good luck with your French! I used tiny cards for a short time, but they became unusable with my disability. I wasn't remembering them anyway! I guess each learns in their own way. I wish you all the very best! ;)

June 6, 2019
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