In 2020, audio chat app Clubhouse exploded onto the social media scene. It became wildly popular as people discovered the appeal of a social platform that didn’t involve video livestreaming, text-based messaging or uploading/downloading photos and videos. When Elon Musk hosted a chat in early 2021, the demand increased even more.
Clubhouse started with an air of exclusivity – to join, a new user had to be invited by a current user. In addition, the app was only available in iOS. But even as the number of users climbed, other issues with using the platform were noted. For example, having to wait for an invitation to join was frustrating. Shutting out a large number of users by not offering an Android platform was also off-putting. Clubhouse is now open to all and the Android app was released earlier this year.
Additional issues included:
- A platform that is not intuitive or particularly user-friendly.
- Difficulty in finding chat rooms for specific topics
- A large number of notifications
- The need to keep one’s device handy to interact during a session
A big concern about Clubhouse has been accessibility issues. Examples include:
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHHC). Users from the DHHC community can struggle with missing out on conversations due to issues with audio equipment of other users, audio connections and the platform environment. There is no closed captioning. Also, the audio-only platform does not allow for visual cues or context, which is important for DHHC audiences. There does not seem to be an effort to remedy these issues for the DHHC community.
- Speech and Language Impaired. People in this group have difficulty speaking, which can be an obstacle when trying to use Clubhouse. While some hosts and moderators can and do make accommodations for this group, it’s not easy to do and many hosts/moderators don’t do it.
- Blind/Low Vision. In theory, the audio-only platform should work well for this group. However, there is no support for VoiceOver (screen reader app) or adjustable text sizes.
Because Clubhouse did not take accessibility into account initially, it will most likely be difficult to address these issues after the fact. But it will have to do so to grow a more diversified audience.