The Quiet Musings

Food for the hearing and healthy only

- May 25th, 2017 -

Since the economy recovered the past years, food delivery websites are more popular than ever. You can put on Netflix and order anything your stomach desires and forget the world exists. Except if you are deaf or hard of hearing and live alone. Or maybe you live in a large building and the doorbell is broken.

In my case, I’m a bit of a food snob and I’m deaf. A food snob – part by taste and part by diet restrictions. And deaf because that’s one of the cards life dealt me later in life.

Thuisbezorgd.nl is the oldest most known food delivery website in The Netherlands. Most restaurants on it are the variety of cheap pizza, spareribs, shoarma, sushi and other fast food. You get the gist. It’s fatty, salty and in several cases with questionable hygiene.

In comes Deliveroo.nl Oh, how happy was I when I read about it. A delivery website that caters to the better food places. A gourmet hamburger or roasted chicken with veggies. Sounds better than a 20 minute salty pizza. Am I right? Except for one small not so small problem. See below exhibit one and two.

Most people won’t spot what is missing here. It’s a very small key part of any good usable and accessible interactive website. There is no “Comment” or “Special instructions” text box.

Want to let them know you are very allergic to peanuts? Too bad. Don’t want salt on your french fries due to your blood pressure? Too bad. You are deaf and want to let them know to text you instead of ringing the doorbell on delivery? Too bad.

And this is why I have never ordered anything on Deliveroo.nl.

Foodora.nl was the same story. But they have made adjustments. I have yet to try using their website since they implemented the comment box. I need to have lots of patience if I decide to try. If things don’t go well I’ll end up with undelivered food I paid for and unable to communicate with the restaurant.

That is another thing with all these websites and food places. You can order online but if there is a mishap or anything, they only provide a phone number for you to call. No e-mail, no chat, no texting or WhatsApp. No food.

Thuisbezorgd.nl is the winner here who always had the “Comment” text box option. Some of the better food places are also using Thuisbezorgd now. Lucky for them. Now I spend my money on Thuisbezorgd and the better places available through them.

Screenshot of thuisbezorgd order page

Accessibility is positive for everyone. The client and the seller. If the product is accessible for everyone, you get more clients thus more income (and/or visitors). It’s a win – win situation for everyone.

Text: The biggest misconception about accessibility is that by adding it you're doing someone a favor. You're not, you're doing your job.

p.s.
Some of you might wonder: “Don’t you have a doorbell system to alert you?” Well yes, yes I do. Only it won’t work with the building bell, only with my apartment doorbell.

Content Denied

- April 17th, 2017 -

Losing my hearing has made me more aware of how inaccessible the world we live in is. From train announcement only being called out instead of also being displayed on screens, to movies without subtitles and YouTube auto captions still sucking in 2017. Humans have a hard time being inclusive of everyone. The world is built for hearing, seeing, talking and full mobility only. Let me not even start about people who avoid me because I’m deaf. Either because they don’t want to deal with adjusted communication or they just don’t know how to deal and don’t ask me for whatever reason.

More than 10 years ago weblogs and articles were the main source of content on the internet. I missed nothing. Back then I was severely hard of hearing but thanks to so many written content I taught myself HTML, CSS, PHP and mySQL with no pain. I could read the latest TV show review or spoiler, breaking news, regular news, it was all written.

But as the years progressed, smartphones and tablets became mainstream. Everyone in the western (privileged) world is online 24/7. Which means our attention span have become less and less while the content available keeps growing everyday. People stopped writing and started making vlogs, videos and podcasts. I stopped following several weblogs and websites because most of their content is now only available in audio.

Humans have a hard time being inclusive of everyone. The world is built for hearing, seeing, talking and full mobility only.

Gone are the days that you could find lots of written content to learn the latest in (in my case) web development. It’s mostly video now a days with a few select developers who still write amazing content to learn from. Fortunately several videos have subtitles or transcripts. But as a deaf person, for me the best way is written content. With video’s you have to split focus on screen and text while trying to grasp and learn the material. You can imagine that with coding it is a bit harder than lets say a cooking instruction video.

Podcast and vlogging are so common now a days that even book reviews (book reviews!) aren’t written anymore but now you have booktube. I used to have a bookmarks folder full of book reviews weblogs. Most of those sites are dormant now.
Somehow I cannot compute why, why people who love reading, who love the written word. Only review those written words in video. Videos without subtitles.

People meaning well keep telling me that YouTube has auto caption. There is no eloquent way to put this. YouTube auto caption sucks. For being a Google product, a company that has whole departments full with engineers for each product. They still haven’t gotten speech to text even decently right. It’s easy to try for yourself. Mute the sound, turn on auto caption and use YouTube like that for a couple of days. Also, notice how happy you’ll be when the channel offers original subtitles for their videos.

I am glad that a group of front-end coders are now investing in inclusive design. Making websites accessible for everyone. It’s not easy. Not only do you have to work more precise and educate yourself about all kinds of people who use the internet. You have to educate the people providing content for the website you painstakingly coded to be usable for everyone.

It is an uphill battle, while a growing group of front-end coders are doing the good work. A giant like Facebook keeps pushing for video content as main content while doing nothing about captions or audio description. Netflix is leading by starting to add audio description and everything is subtitled. Although not in English.
Another misconception. Just because I live in The Netherlands does not mean I want subtitles in Dutch. I want them in English, especially if I’m watching a movie spoken in English.

There are many more examples of this imbalance. Technology keeps advancing but only a little is being done for inclusivity. Think about the new era of smart home, Amazon echo, etc. It’s mostly audio interface. What about we perfect speech to text and vice versa before we exclude even more people from daily experiences?

Obviously I am writing this from my personal deaf experience. But it counts for everyone. Improving inclusivity needs to be done and established as a standard on which we build everything. So far, this seems like a pipe dream.

Meanwhile I’m going to start a curated collection of podcasts, vlogs and YouTube channels that have transcripts or subtitles. It doesn’t have to be about web development only. A podcast about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a vlog about pens and notebooks, a YouTube channel about the greatness of avocados. You get the gist.

Send your suggestions at and I’ll add it to my links page.