By K W Warburton, The Reluctant Spoonie
In June, Ravelry revealed a new website design. This was long overdue as their website had been stuck in the 90’s for too long. However, this design was soon shown to be unsuitable for some users, most importantly those who experience seizures and migraines.
Check out my Animal Crossing Villager crochet patterns here
As a side note, I have never used Ravelry for my designs. I have always found their website to be unwelcoming and difficult to use due to the old-fashioned design of the ‘Classic’ Ravelry site.
What are the main issues with Ravelry’s new website design?
Several users reported issues with the new design such as experiencing seizures, migraines, vertigo, headaches, eye strain and more. Most web designers would have changed their design straight away after receiving these complaints.
Ravelry remained silent on this major issue for weeks. They ignored numerous complaints from people who had experienced seizures and migraines. They even closed the comments section on discussions about this issue in their Facebook group and forums.
The Epilepsy Foundation even issued a warning to users and urged those with photosensitive epilepsy to be cautious when using Ravelry.
We reached out to Ravelry to alert them to the reports and asked them to take seriously the concerns of people with epilepsy.The Epilepsy Foundation, 2nd July 2020
I checked out Ravelry’s new design to see what it was like. My eyeballs started hurting as soon as I got onto the site and I had to leave. Some people have reported that even having astigmatism means that you will have issues with the site.
Ravelry breaks their silence
On the 28th July, Ravelry broke their silence on the new website design issues with this email. A copy of this email was sent to everyone who had made a complaint about the new design. This email did not address any of the serious issues. It even accused those who had experienced symptoms from using the site of spreading ‘false information’. Additionally, they did not state their own sources or who had reviewed their site to ensure that it is safe for everyone to use.
A disability advocate had been a supporter of Ravelry for 13 years and was outspoken on social media about the accessibility issues with Ravelry’s new design. These tweets from Cassidy accusing the Ravelry user and disability advocate of lying have been fuelling hate comments towards them.
Advocating for accessibility should not lead to bullying, hate comments or other personal attacks.
On the 30th August, Ravelry issued a statement on their blog (not the new website) which was supposed to address the issues.
With regard to tweets and emails sent by Cassidy, we would like to make clear they do not reflect the opinions and professional intentions of the Ravelry team or the way we think about what people are experiencing. We have not been as aware as we should be that these messages were being sent. Cassidy was not in a state to be talking with people, though she does understand that this is no excuse and that the emails that she wrote were hurtful. She is ashamed and sincerely sorry. It will take a period of adjustment, but in the future, Cassidy’s role will be focused on technical work. She no longer has access to the customer service emails and her Ravelry mail is disabled.Ravelry: A letter from Jessica, 30th July 2020
This very long blog post did little to address the real issues. It mainly focused on ways that people can give feedback privately.
Additionally, they did not address the harm they have caused disability advocates by accusing them of lying.
Furthermore, they did not address the fact that non-disabled Ravelry users continue to attack those who speak out about accessibility issues.
Overall, this ‘apology’ did little to support disabled Ravelry users and even claimed that the new design was more accessible.
…the new design is much more usable for many of these Ravelers, including a large number of people with disabilities and folks with vision issues.Ravelry: A letter from Jessica, 30th July 2020
A quick note on inclusively if anyone from Ravelry is reading this: if even one person is excluded, you cannot claim to be inclusive. Do better.
Should I boycott Ravelry?
In conclusion, I’m not saying that you should close down your Ravelry account, especially if you need it to make an income. However, if you only use it to list your free patterns, then I would suggest listing them elsewhere until Ravelry makes changes to their new website design.
You can email Ravelry about their new website design and the handling of accessibility issues here email@example.com.
If this whole situation has put you off using Ravelry for your knitting and crochet patterns, you are not alone. I have never relied on Ravelry for my crochet patterns. My usual go-to is Pinterest where I get patterns directly from the creator through their blog or Etsy. Please continue to support disabled pattern makers during this time.
‘Classic’ Ravelry is scheduled to be deactivated at the end of this month (March 2021). The accessibility issues with regards to migraines and eye strain continue for affected users of new Ravelry. The latest theory with regards to why the new site affects people is because the colour choice makes your eyes think that it is looking at a 3D image. Please note, that this theory is anecdotal and has not been confirmed by an expert. Ravelry has yet to make a statement with reference to these accessibility issues.