The sharp decline in the use of the Clubhouse ´audio-chat´ platform in its use was caused by some central problems of access and accessibility. Above all, those using Android devices were outside looking in, so we couldn’t reach them.
Although some of them were able to repurpose old iPhones and iPads, the exclusion of such a large segment of potential users affected the quality of conversations and the number of new discussion topics. The Android version was released on Google Play on May 9, 2021 – more than a year after the Clubhouse debuted on the Apple App Store.
While there is still a sizable group of regular users and growth continues across the community, accessibility of the Clubhouse is a concern as well and needs to be addressed.
In early February 2021, Clubhouse – the invite-only audio chat app – reached its peak in popularity, growing from 3.5 million to 8.1 million downloads in a matter of weeks. Potential users were chasing their contacts among users for account invitations.
At the same time, users were beginning to understand the highlights and drawbacks of the Clubhouse’s growing community. At TechnologyAdvice, we quickly saw the value of connecting with others to conduct market research, expand our professional networks and build relationships when discussing the growing B2B software industry. As the first trimester drew to a close, however, the frequency and duration of application use began to decrease.
If you’ve never used this app, the Clubhouse can be intimidating. Users can select from 14 key topics and explore live conversations on everything from the arts to world events. While there is a good representation of minor topics where “rooms” can be tagged, it can still be difficult to delve into something specific we have in mind.
Navigation in the room finding process is largely dependent on your own network. As with other social platforms, users maintain lists of other users’ accounts that they follow; of course, they can accumulate followers themselves.
Between the high level of notifications the app produces and the prevalence of popular account holders, users may feel pressured to participate in large chats that have been active for some time, leaving few opportunities to talk directly to others .
Obviously, to navigate the application you need to tap on the user interface; and, once in a room, users must rely on audio devices to listen while holding the device at hand to raise their hand (to request to join a conversation), as well as to adjust audio settings, explore users to connect, etc. For these reasons, the article’s author thinks the notion that the Clubhouse can be a “disconnected” listening experience is wrong.
As a growing number of users make frequent use of the application, the number of users’ concerns about physical, visual and hearing impairments has increased:
1. Issues affecting the Deaf and Hearing Impaired Community – For users who are part of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired Community (DHHC), the Clubhouse can be a source of anxiety. Because all content shared on the platform depends on the audio equipment, connections and environments of other users, individuals with hearing aids and disabilities, are missing out on parts of conversations that provide value to those who don’t.
An obvious way this could be resolved would be to add closed captioning technology, allowing listeners to read along with conversations as they happen. While we live in a pandemic during which video conferencing would never be more prevalent, visual cues are more important than usual. Visual cues and context are simply lacking in the Clubhouse, and there has been little discussion or progress in improving to accommodate individuals with hearing impairments.
2. Problems Affecting People with Speech and Language Impairments – More than 7.5 million Americans in the United States alone have problems using their voices. For them, the obstacles of being an active member on a speech-based platform like the Clubhouse are important. Although adjustments can be made in certain rooms and discussions that take place in the Clubhouse, it is at the discretion and consideration of the hosts and moderators who are “on stage” in a Clubhouse chat room. The platform addresses the idea that users want to quickly enter a room, listen and contribute to an active discussion; but there is no easy way for a user with a speech or language impairment to do this. This highlights accessibility issues with a focus on digital capability.
Steven Aquino, a Forbes contributor with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion shared his perspective on this same issue: “The Clubhouse’s foremost audio dynamic means it could theoretically be an eminently accessible social network for the blind and visually impaired. Unfortunately, the lack of support for VoiceOver and adjustable text hamper its potential.