Slack’s interface is not accessible to screen readers as – despite the fact that it is HTML – there is no semantic value to speak of in it. It’s all DIVs and SPANs, monkeys and undergrowth – nothing to guide you.
Seeing that I enjoy Slack at work, I set out to consider running a community on my own. Then life and work happened. But when yesterday my friend Tomomi Imura asked if there are any evangelism/developer advocacy Slack groups, I told her I’d started one a few weeks ago and we now have it filling up nicely with interesting people sharing knowledge on a specialist subject matter.
And then my friend and ex-colleague Marco Zehe wanted to be part of this. And, by all means, he should. Except, there is one small niggle: Marco can’t see and uses a screen reader to navigate the web. And Slack’s interface is not accessible to screen readers as – despite the fact that it is HTML – there is no semantic value to speak of in it. It’s all DIVs and SPANs, monkeys and undergrowth – nothing to guide you.
What followed was a quick back and forth on Twitter about the merits of Slack vs. open and accessible systems like IRC. The main point of Marco was that he can not use Slack and it isn’t open, that’s why it is a bad tool to use for team communication. IRC is open, accessible, time-proven and – if used properly – turns X-Factor dropouts into Freddy Mercury and pot noodles into coq au vin.
Marco has a point: there is a danger that Slack will go away, that Slack will have to pivot into something horrible like many other community tools have. It is a commercial product that isn’t open, meaning it can not easily be salvaged or forked should it go pear shaped. And it isn’t as accessible as IRC is.