Submitted by: Des Delgadillo
After five years of the same legacy interface, WWE Network gave subscribers a much-needed upgrade this past week. The service, now partnered with Endeavour Streaming, unveiled a tweaked interface this week with an improvement to search, speed, and a promise of even more added functionality to come. And for the most part, these changes have been met with positivity.
But for a small group of fans, a step forward on the WWE’s behalf meant two steps back.
For the blind and visually impaired, a majority of whom rely on text-to-speech programs called screen readers to navigate the internet, WWE Network has become an unwelcoming territory. With video player controls that are not identified as anything but “buttons,” show and episode lists impossible to skim through, and various important navigational elements not coded in a manner that screen readers can vocalize, WWE Network has gone from a place of escapism for all to a place of frustration and even isolation for some.
The most frustrating thing about this is that all these issues could have been easily detected in beta testing, but there is nothing out there to suggest that accessibility is even something on WWE’s radar. The issues mentioned can also easily be fixed with minor tweaks to a future update, but, again, is that even something WWE and its team of engineers are going to bother doing?
My days are fueled by POST Wrestling and coffee. Those days are spent auditing websites and mobile applications for screen reader compliance and accessibility issues. Now it seems some of my work has come home with me. For posterity, please find a list of some of the major accessibility issues with the new rollout of the WWE Network. It is my hope that someone will find this who works with WWE or at least cares that all avenues of entertainment should be reasonably open to all. For any questions or clarifications, please direct any inquiries to [email protected] or @desdelgadillo on Twitter.
- Just loading up the network.wwe.com site for the first time, things already are off. As I navigate with my arrow keys listening to the menu options, I find the cursor used to navigate the web page jumps around constantly. I can be looking at the menu for “Shows,” for example, and suddenly my cursor jumps to the beginning of the list and I must start over.
- I also find that there is an element on the page that is identified as “view profile ANA” that keeps attracting the focus of my cursor. I can’t get anything done on here.
- Additionally, I notice that heading navigation is broken on the WWE Network website. Heading navigation is usually more important to screen reader users because they can use heading navigation to jump past other extraneous information usually on a webpage, such as ads, sidebar information, etc. I am aware that headings do exist on the WWE Network page, but occasionally when I attempt to jump to a heading to, say, see all the given episodes in a TV series, I am not able to reach that heading. Instead, my cursor re-focuses to the top of the page or even out of the page altogether and back to my address bar.
- When viewing videos, the problems are worse.
- When viewing a video, the “play,” “Pause,” “Back,” and “Forward” buttons are not labeled. Labeling buttons is a very easy fix that can be made on the backend and should not take any time to rectify at all. However, imagine loading up a video and every control is simply identified as “Button.” It would definitely ruin your SummerSlam plans.
- Also, imagine clicking a button to see what it does and suddenly your language settings have been changed with no recourse on changing them back independently.
On the iPhone app:
- Navigation is incredibly difficult on this app because once I click on a series, for example, “WWE Photo Shoot,” I am then put in a player where the most recent episode is playing, and other episodes are displayed as well.
- I am unable to pause and play the episode since, again, the buttons on the iPhone app are not labeled in the slightest.
- Even worse? I cannot escape this player no matter what I do. Presumably, there is some kind of “back” or “done” button available to sighted users. The assistive tech on my iPhone does not indicate that such a control exists. So, if I want to view something else on the WWE Network, I would have to close out the app and start again.
In summary, although these accessibility problems only affect a small group of users in the blind and visually impaired, these are such small problems that it is hard and honestly infuriating to believe that a billion-dollar corporation would not have the foresight to bring at least one accessibility tester onboard to ensure that these new updates worked for everyone.
POST Wrestling has reached out to the WWE Network’s technical support staff with a link to this article and will share any information we receive in response.