dai11y 24/07/2023 – My Thoughts on Accessibility of NFTs and Web3

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My Thoughts on Accessibility of NFTs and Web3

Apologies if this is so last year (this post has been in my bookmarks since February 2022, and admittedly we haven’t heard much about Web3 since the rise of ChatGPT). But this article by Crystal Preston-Watson evaluates an emerging and hyped technology for its accessibility, so there’s certainly a crossover.

Crystal explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique digital asset that can be bought using blockchain technology. Crystal has a visual impairment, but is not a screen reader poweruser. So, she attempted to go through the process of creating a Coinbase wallet, buying Ethereum (ETH) and then purchasing an NFT on OpenSea, testing the end-to-end transaction from an accessibility perspective.

The first takeaway is perhaps surprising: whilst there were significant accessibility issues, Crystal didn’t encounter anything more or less accessible than the process of buying items on many other eCommerce sites right now.

There were some unique challenges, such as having to verify their identity for the Coinbase account, which requires the app taking pictures of the front and back of one’s driving license, and also taking a selfie. Crystal notes that some users would require in-person assistance, opening them up to security vulnerabilities of sensitive information.

Before using OpenSea, Crystal has to transfer ETH to a wallet. Coinbase directed them to set up a passcode/biometrics, then generated a recovery phrase (for backup wallet recovery). Coinbase prompted Crystal to either back up the phrase in the cloud, or write it down, or copy the words to the phone’s clipboard (for then storing somewhere locally). Crystal elected for the latter, but was then told the phrase would only be copied to the clipboard for one minute. This time limit was insufficient given Crystal was using a screen reader, so they were forced to use cloud storage instead.

The biggest blocker to the transaction turned out to be the utter lack of alt text on OpenSea, and then the financial burden of the ‘gas fees’. Crystal ended up not buying an NFT.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a new technology – but we should do all we can to ensure disabled users aren’t left behind.

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