Chris Ashton

dai11y 24/11/2021

Your daily frequent11y newsletter, brought to you by @ChrisBAshton:

  • Chancey Fleet writes a Twitter thread about their experience using Google Translate’s new “Transcribe” feature for iOS.
  • Chancey wanted to watch Netflix’s House of Flowers, which is in Spanish. It has English subtitles, but the ‘audio description’ of scenes is in Spanish.
  • Chancey uses VoiceOver with a Braille screen reader, i.e. it outputs to a Braille display rather than as speech. Chancey wanted to use Transcribe to catch the dialog and audio description, translate it, and output it to Braille.
  • Evidently, Google was not happy with this, failing immediately with “PLUG IN HEADPHONES TO USE TRANSCRIBE WITH VOICEOVER”. Chancey tried to fool it by plugging in a Lightning headphone dongle, but that didn’t work. They tried closing VoiceOver, starting the Transcribe, and then launching VoiceOver again, at which point the transcribing immediately stopped with the same error message.
  • Why was this happening? Because VoiceOver speech would, naturally, mess with the effectiveness of the transcription. However, outputting to Braille would not interfere with the transcription. This is not a scenario that the team behind Transcribe have considered, so Transcribe simply shuts down, rather than giving the user a friendly warning and then allowing them to continue.
  • In my developer career, I have sometimes been asked if it is possible to detect whether someone is using a screen reader, to give them a different experience. This Twitter thread shows exactly why this is a bad idea. You’re never going to know your users better than they know themselves.

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