Recently I solicited some feedback from the Chia community about the makeup and content of The Chia Plot and got some really good feedback on the visual makeup of the site. Some of the changes I have already made, and some of them are in the planning stages still and will be implemented soon.
The reason I did this was that a reader and friend of the site, UKMayem on Discord and YouTube, mentioned to me that this site was not very visually accessible to people with a hard time seeing. And honestly, I had never considered it. Which is terrible of me. So UKMayhem made a few suggestions to me for how to quickly make some critical improvements, such as adding a dark mode and working on the Speak-It compatibility. But there is still more to do, in some cases a lot more.
And I am not the only one. I was curious about just how accessible the Chia ecosystem is, and the wider cryptocurrency ecosystem in general. In order to look a the Chia ecosystem I hired UKMayhem to evaluate the Chia website, client and the 20 largest Chia pools along a series of factors that determine how usable the site is for the Visually impaired. He did a fantastic job and you can check out the report here, and if you have any sites you would like added to our list to check please let me know. Even better, if you have any additional factors we can consider and look into that would be truly great.
The results are actually a little better than I was expecting with most of them having working links and public contact information. and are easily navigated by keyboard without a mouse. Also, almost all of the sites support Speak-It text-to-speech conversion, which is extremely important for the visually impaired.
Where the news starts to get a little less great is when we get into the real accommodations. Only 7 sites support a dark mode, something important for people who have trouble with black-on-white text. Even Chia.net does not support a dark mode, although the Chia GUI client absolutely does. And nothing in the ecosystem, including my website (yet) supports resizable text or optional colour filters. I think someone who is mostly blind would have a lot of trouble in our community and that’s very sad.
The Chia GUI is actually pretty good, although it would be great if it had text-to-speech capability. Lack of key accessibility features is actually a re-occurring theme in the wider world of cryptocurrency, and I think this is a great opportunity for Chia Network. There is basically no effort whatsoever to be accessible to the impaired, with wallets not supporting text to speech or other accessibility issues, including hardware wallets. Almost no one bothers making their web sites, or their software accessible or easy on the eyes.
I think if the proposition Chia is making to the world is about solving the problems of cryptocurrency, accessibility needs to absolutely be on the list. I think there is a big opportunity for Chia to stand out from the crowd. If you search visual impairment and cryptocurrency you won’t find much. A few blog posts and forum entries throughout the years asking about it, but never anything concrete. A few hardware wallet projects have promised text-to-speech but so far nothing has materialized.
I think it would be a really good idea for Chia to work with an expert, like UKMayhem, on making their site and client as accessible as possible both to maximize their target market as well as to set an example for the rest of the ecosystem. They have the Chia Cultivation Grant and this sounds like the perfect way to use that. Make Chia better for those of us who have the hardest time, and establish Chia as a market leader in cryptocurrency all at once.