This installment of our Accessibility Activists column is an interview with Alexander Shutov, creator of Dark Reader, a Chrome plugin that adjusts the color contrast in your browser to make it more readable.
When did you begin work on Dark Reader?
Working as a software engineer, I was staring at a screen all day long and my eyes got tired. So, in July 2014, I created a simple extension that could invert the colors of web pages as soon as you clicked an icon in the top-right corner. I released Dark Reader 2 in December 2014, with a settings page allowing users to adjust brightness, contrast, sepia, and other filters.
Were you aware of the accessibility implications of Dark Reader during development?
At first, I was developing the extension based on my own experience. Soon, I started receiving reports about some wrongly inverted websites, and performance problems. All that feedback was addressed in version 3, released in June 2015. Since that time, users have been able to manage their ignore list, select font, and invert PDFs. Users familiar with web technologies and accessibility started contributing to the list of dark sites and wrongly inverted parts.
What is the best feedback you have received?
There has been a lot of thankful feedback, which has motivated me to not stop the work. The most touching one came from a retired US soldier with vision problems. Many users have noticed that Dark Reader helps them when they’re struggling with migraines.
What accessibility barrier would you like to see solved?
Inverting web content is not enough for eye-safe web browsing. Google Chrome can have problems (such as white flashes) when opening a new tab or navigating a website. Unfortunately, the browser developers don’t solve these problems for years, so I even had to write to Sergey Brin, but it seems as if he hasn’t payed attention to it. Today, more and more professional software provides dark themes, so I hope in 2017 we will have more dark-themed websites. At the same time, Dark Reader 4 is under construction, and its new inversion engine will be more intellectual and comfortable for eyes.