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The accessibility of Facebook

04.08.2011

We have investigated the accessibility of Facebook in three subsequent "Tests of the Month" (May, June and July 2011). This article sums up the main findings.

The social network Facebook is a complex web application that cannot be tested adequately in a single "Test of the Month". From May to July 2011, we have therefore carried out three separate tests, investigating first the registration process for new users; then, the account and profile settings; and finally, the daily use.

The overall verdict: Facebook gives users with disabilities a hard time. In daily use, several critical functions are inaccessible. For this reason alone, the overall score of the last test had to be marked down. These are the most serious problems:

  • Critical Facebook functions are inaccessible or difficult to access via the keyboard: they do not receive focus. The tab order of lightboxes is dysfunctional. In addition, many areas have very weak or non-existent focus visibility.
  • Important interface elements are implemented as background graphics and disappear when custom colour schemes are used, making the functions behind them inaccessble to visually impaired users relying on such colour schemes.
  • Image-based interface elements have no alt-attributes or attributes are empty.
  • The semantic structuring of pages through headlines is poor; WAI-ARIA landmarks cannot compensate for these deficits.
  • Scaling of text only does not work in Internet Explorer.
  • The source code order of content is deficient: The view without style sheet often reveals confusing content that is usually hidden via CSS.
  • Many form elements have no label.

The three individual tests cover the problems in more detail. This is an overview of the tests and respective results:

Individual testpoint score (of 100)
Facebook registration74,75
Facebook account and profile settings78,25
Facebook in daily use69,75 (and marked down)

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