Often, a movement can be started by an individual or a group of people, and in this case, the person from the blind community to start a movement is Jonatan Mosen. On April 15, Jonatan published "An open letter to organisations engaging with the online blind community. Twitter has abandoned us, many of us have abandoned Twitter, join us on Mastodon." In the letter, he called on organizations for and by the blind, assistive technology companies, mainstream technology companies with accessibility-focused accounts, entities providing essential information during emergencies, and any product or service valuing convenient, accessible engagement with the blind community to join Mastodon.
This movement was sparked by Twitter owner Elon Musk's decision to fire the entire Twitter accessibility team, demonstrating his disregard for accessibility and disabled individuals. As WBH’s Chief Editor Chris Hofstader says, "money talks, accessibility walks." The petition has garnered 378 signatures from people worldwide. Jonathan Mosen embodies Gandhi's saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world." The entire WBH team and the blind community thanks Jonathan Mosen for initiating this movement.
The NFB's Decision to Move to Mastodon
During the May 2023 edition of the Presidential Release, NFB President Mark A. Riccobono announced that the NFB had created their own Mastodon account. NFB President Mark A. Riccobono expressed concerns about Twitter's recent actions, including laying off its accessibility team, changing its APIs, and altering its verification process. These factors led the NFB to believe that Twitter is no longer an appropriate platform for them to support, especially given its exclusion of blind people.
However, the NFB will not completely abandon its Twitter feed to continue supporting its members who use the platform. Instead, they will actively engage with Federation resources and build a new community on Mastodon, inviting all members of the Federation family to join NFB.social on Mastodon and help shape the community's future. We hope that NFB permits open discussion of all blindness related topics without insisting that discussion be limited to issues and ideas that comply with its very specific ideology.
As "The self proclaimed Voice of the Nation's Blind," it is fitting for the NFB to be the first large blindness organization to join Mastodon. Other organizations, such as the American Council of the Blind (ACB), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, should join Mastodon soon as well and we hope the trend continues to all blindness organizations over time.
Future of Mastodon and Twitter
Anecdotally, many blind Twitter users have either deleted their accounts, created a Mastodon account, or are active on both platforms. Some people may be hesitant to leave Twitter due to the steep learning curve, but Jonathan Mosen's comprehensive tutorial on the Mastodon app for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS called Mona in episode 227 helps address this issue. Also, the World Blind Herald article, "Going Mastodon", published on February 20 of this year, months before Jonathan's excellent work and even longer before NFB jumped on board, is another good resource for those considering the change. Another reason for hesitancy is the difference between the two platforms, as not all followers and followed accounts are present on Mastodon.
Twitter's new CEO, announced by Elon Musk, will take over in six weeks. There is some chance that Twitter's Accessibility Team might return. If that happens, most blind people on Mastodon may return to Twitter. However, Jonatan's leadership on this issue remains undiminished and should be applauded loudly by blind people everywhere.