blog post: the inaccessibility of patreon. Staff uncaring

The following is on my patreon page which can be found here For those that want to be patrons please write to them. As a creator I’m losing probably average of $200 if each of my subscribers donated $1 a month. That can be a lot for some of us. Here is the post. 1

The following comes from a user of NVDA. For those that don’t know what NVDA is, it is a screen reader which can be gotten from nvda’s homepage (that page will redirect you to the new page) which is free and open source. I have also ben trying to contact patreon regarding accessibility on mac os. It’s better, but not getting there fast enough in my humble opinion. It actually seems like they want to deal with us mac users more than us windows users. They have an email to which you can reach out and bring accessibility to their attention. Please email platform@patreon.com and express to them your concern. Here is the email about that first.

Patreon replied with, a, send an email to this general email address, line, so, I am gonna call their bluff. I think everyone should write to the below if they cannot use the service or heard the service was inaccessible. In the meantime, I am gonna continue to look for emails and phone numbers. Share this email widely! I know many don’t use patreon, but I know many blind creators who could make a living off it if the app and or website had labeled buttons and links.

So as you can see they do not understand accessibility. The following is an email thread in its entirety with all names not redacted. Please spread this on your patreon page and everywhere else. I have not edited the thread so any mistakes in spelling etc are not mine, not this time. Let’s go make a difference.

Begin thread:

For the past months I have been trying to advocate for Patreon to take accessibility seriously. The below, is a giant list of threads and otherwise where I and others have attempted to do the same. They refuse to see how important this is. I have lost money because of them and I know many many many disabled creators who would like to use the service but can’t, even non blind keyboard users. The below is a blog post not by me, and then my email to a few folks at Patreon I did through some digging, and then the email thread with one employee there to someone else. Enjoy reading. And, no. I am not done.

Before I begin, our advocacy group email is below.

https://accessmedia.groups.io/g/team

team+subscribe@accessmedia.groups.io

Here’s one blog post on the subject.

Patreon and accessibility

And here’s their twitter response to me.

https://mobile.twitter.com/PatreonSupport/status/981211237429030912

And here’s the email they told me to email. I shared it far and wide.

platform@patreon.com

Now, here is the chain.

Hi!
My name is Robert Kingett. I am a blind patreon who creator who struggles with the service daily. I was thinking about closing my account all together because I was having a really hard, and in some cases, impossible time managing my page and my account.
I use a screen reader, In this case, an open source screen reader called NVDA. I do not use the mouse to navigate. I use the keyboard. To put it simply, a screen reader takes the HTML, reads the HTML, then translates it into a keyboard driven virtual buffer that we can hear while navigating around.
While I’ve always had a patreon account, even when I could see some, I was constantly unable to manage my profile and or account using a screen reader. My blind supporters have stopped donating to me because they could not change pledges or otherwise cancel their pledges easily. I lost money.
I would be more than happy to work with you on a regular basis to fix the many issues I have found. Some of these include poor heading structure or otherwise missing headings, missing alt text atributes for images… popup dialog box rendering to where the screen reader can see the popped out box… and, a few others. There are several relatively simple fixes you can do on the site that would increase accessibility. Some of the issues encountered throughout

the site include:

Missing alt text
– Missing form labels
– Empty links
– Empty buttons
– Poor visual focus for sighted keyboard only users
– Skipped headings making the document structure hard to understand.
– Orphaned form labels
– Redundant links (2 links side by side going to the same place)
– Links coded as buttons.

These are easy to fix. I would be more than happy to help you make the site more accessible from a screen reader standpoint and beyond. After all, as it stands, I cannot use your service. My patrons couldn’t, either, which is why they left.
When can we have a phone call about this? What phone number is the best to reach you? When can we have a conference call about this?

The below email thread is a long running one about lack of accessibility of the service. I know many who would like to use the service and who can’t edit their pages or change prices or cancel pledges or even use the service. The app is actually worse than the website. I know many of you are not patreon creators, but this is how I, and many others, make money.

I am gonna call the below today. If anybody wants to send emails or make phone calls, to try to get someone, let me know. clearly, he likes ignoring emails.

Tal Raviv
Product Manager
phone: 561.789.1015
tal@…
. . .
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Gregg Rosenberg
Apr 3 #443

Team,
I have great news. I am working with Wayne McKenzie at Apple, the Apple Engineering Team, and YouTube TV indirectly to rectify all the problems I have documented with YouTube TV with respect to app accessibility and once that is under control I will focus on content accessibility and describe audio. Wayne is going to be reaching back to me late this week or early next week with the request of log files engineering and YouTube TV folks wish me to extract from my Apple TV (4th Generation).

On Apr 3, 2018, at 11:26 AM, Robert Kingett <kingettr@… wrote:

The below email thread is a long running one about lack of accessibility of the service. I know many who would like to use the service and who can’t edit their pages or change prices or cancel pledges or even use the service. The app is actually worse than the website. I know many of you are not patreon creators, but this is how I, and many others, make money.

I am gonna call the below today. If anybody wants to send emails or make phone calls, to try to get someone, let me know. clearly, he likes ignoring emails.

Tal Raviv
Product Manager
phone: 561.789.1015
tal@…

On 4/3/2018 11:10 AM, Nicolas Steenhout wrote:
Hello again Tal,

I haven’t heard from you for nearly a week on my latest email, and for nearly 3 weeks on my previous email.

I have included Robert Kingett on this email as he is a blind individual who is unable to use Patreon. He is interested in speaking to people at Patreon on improving accessibility.

Thank you

Nic

On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 1:04 PM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@… wrote:
Hello again,

Are you able to give me an update? It’s now been 10 months since I first reached out to you about accessibility. I did not hear back from you about who I can speak within Patreon to get this moving.

I have people who want to become my patron, but are unable to use the site because of the accessibility issues. Your lack of movement is costing me money.

I also know artists and podcasters with disabilities who want to put their projects on Patreon, but who are unable to join because Patreon is not accessible.

It would be great if Patreon came to accessibility willingly rather than dragging their feet to it.

Thank you for a PROMPT response.

Nic

On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:35 PM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@… wrote:
Thank you.

I’m sorry, but “it’s on our list and in our consciousness” isn’t good
enough anymore. It’s been well over 6 months that I initially
contacted Patreon about this issue.

To say “it’s on our list”, is basically paying lip service to
something that impacts a large minority. Promises without action are
empty.

Who can I speak to within Patreon that can provide more information
and act on it?

Thank you

Nic

On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:08 PM, Tal Raviv <tal@… wrote:
Nicolas, thanks for the ping. It’s on our list and in our consciousness, and
I can’t externally provide dates.

Tal Raviv
Product Manager
561.789.1015

On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 10:24 AM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@… wrote:

Hello again Tal,

I’m reviving this conversation because it’s been nearly 6 months with
no movement on Patreon’s part on this.

What are you going to do to improve accessibility?
When are you going to do it?

Nic

On Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 8:08 PM, Tal Raviv <tal@… wrote:
Yep, to be clear we’re not creating an accessibility API.

I appreciate the deep insights, and I agree we have major problems. That
is
an impressive list. I can think of additional bad situations that are
also
very embarrassing, from our own experiences internally.

We need to fix this. Period. I can’t share too much more about our
difficult
internal decisions, but I can tell you that this is something that
everyone
on the product team is aligned with and knows is important as Patreon
grows
to become a significant membership engine. We also know that
accessibility
is a scale we need to climb and do not want to treat as a checkbox and
must
be respected as an ongoing commitment.

Let’s stay in touch. When this comes near, we will need help.

Tal

Tal Raviv
Product Manager, Growth and Platform
561.789.1015

On Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 11:49 AM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@… wrote:

Hello again Tal,

If you’ll allow me to be candid – I think your approach of doing an
accessibility API is entirely the wrong approach. This is pretty much
akin
to relying on 3rd party vendors to offer accessibility. It’s an
approach
that doesn’t work. I know – I’ve been working in this field for over
two
decades and I’ve see it over and over.

I’m not saying APIs are bad, but they should not be your first solution
for accessibility.

There are several relatively simple fixes you can do on the site that
would increase accessibility. Some of the issues encountered throughout
the
site include:

  • Missing alt text
  • Missing form labels
  • Empty links
  • Empty buttons
  • Poor visual focus for sighted keyboard only users
  • Skipped headings making the document structure hard to understand.
  • Orphaned form labels
  • Redundant links (2 links side by side going to the same place)
  • Links coded as buttons

    And these were found in less than 5 minutes looking at the different
    sections of the site. I think it would be fair to say that these issues
    apply at all workflows on Patreon.

    I would strongly suggest that your team spend some time analysing the
    pages from an accessibility perspective. Try to use the site with only
    the
    keyboard. Use VoiceOver (if you’re on OS X) or download NVDA if you’re
    on
    Windows. Try to navigate the site that way. Look at each page using an
    automated accessibility checker (keep in mind these tend to capture
    only
    about 40% of the issues, but they’ll give you a great overview of all
    the
    pages you have). Tools like tenon.io or WebAIM’s WAVE toolbar can help
    you
    identify many issues quite quickly.

    And if you feel you don’t have the expertise on your team to make it
    happen, hire someone who does that. Obviously, I’d love to put myself
    forward to provide assessment and training to your teams – it’s what I
    do.
    There are many good, reputable outfits out there that could also help.

    Nic

    On Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 1:55 PM, Tal Raviv <tal@… wrote:

    Hi Nic – that’s really good information. Can you elaborate on their
    troubles? One initiative is that we are working hard on our API
    platform.
    This will allow many other apps and readers and other content
    platforms to
    deliver and gate content to approach accessibility in a high-leverage
    way.
    I’d love to have a quick description/understanding of their issues
    (content
    related, payment related, etc)

    Tal Raviv
    Product Manager, Growth and Platform
    561.789.1015

    On Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 10:14 AM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@…
    wrote:

    Thank you for the update.

    Are you able to share what these initatives are? Is there any way I
    can
    help?

    I have several people who need accessibility that aren’t able to
    access my podcasts about accessibility on Patreon. This is beyond
    important
    to me.

    Thank you

    Nic

    On Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 12:40 PM, Tal Raviv <tal@… wrote:

    Hi Nicolas, very much agreed this is important. I appreciate the
    follow
    up and keeping this top of mind.

    Right now we have prioritized a few initiatives that are
    mission-critical in order to be able to address accessibility. Not
    my ideal
    answer – will keep you posted.

    Tal

    Tal Raviv
    Product Manager, Growth and Platform
    561.789.1015

    On Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 11:46 AM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@…
    wrote:

    Hello Tal,

    It’s been nearly 3 months since we discussed accessibility at
    Patreon.
    Are you able to give me an indication as to when the accessibility
    team will
    be in place and starting work on these important issues?

    Thank you.

    Nic

    On Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 2:44 PM, Tal Raviv <tal@… wrote:

    Hi Nicolas,

    Perfect and thank you for reaching out. We have done some scoping
    of
    accessibility, enough to know how bad we are at it. We are
    spinning up a
    team that would officially own this aspect of our product,
    including other
    frontend infrastructure. Now that we’ve grown to much greater
    reach than
    ever before, creator and patron accessibility is super important
    to us
    moving forward.

    Although I have scoped this in the past, will not be leading this
    team, and I will share your information with those who will do
    that to reach
    out when they finish staffing and forming it.

    Tal

    Tal Raviv
    Product Manager, Growth and Platform
    561.789.1015

    On Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 9:48 AM, Nicolas Steenhout <nic@…
    wrote:

    Hello Tal,

    Adam gave me your name and email address and said you were the
    best
    person to speak to about improving web accessibility for Patreon.

    As I was telling him, I’m interested in using the platform as a
    Creator, but my field of expertise is web accessibility and it
    would be
    great if Patreon were to be accessible to people with
    disabilities.

    I’m not sure how much work or digging you guys have done in that
    area at this point. There are several things I could do with you
    to work on
    improving, including providing training to your design, dev and
    QA teams to
    running an audit, and even helping directly with remediation if
    you want.

    I had a very quick look and noticed several issues that would be
    easy fixes and quick wins. Some other areas would require a
    deeper analysis
    and a bit more work.

    Perhaps the best thing would be to get on a call at some point
    next
    week and see where you’re at and how we can work together to
    improve things?
    My schedule is pretty open so please let me know what a good time
    for you
    would be.

    Thank you

    Nic


  1. authors note: the post after my introduction is a direct quote from my patreon page. Any mistakes in regard to the emails are not mine.