An Open Letter to Ravelry

For those unaware, in June the yarncraft website suddenly and without warning rolled out a full site redesign and rebrand. Immediately reports of migraines, dizziness, and nausea appeared, as well as reports of seizures. While I won’t go into detail here, the following is a copy of an email I sent to the Ravelry team this week after one of the co-founders attacked a user who attempted to gather statistics on the damage. Relevant links are included in the letter.

Ravelry has been a bastion of hope for many marginalized people since 2016 and before, and the response of the staff following the redesign has been not just hurtful, but actively harmful. 

This is a hard email for me to write. Ravelry has been my home for 13 years. It is my main social contact.

While I appreciate the intent behind the redesign, the actions of the Ravelry team, particularly Cassidy, with regards to user feedback, have been incredibly harmful.

The recent email she sent states that those who have complained of migraines or seizures are outright liars. She also stated that the Epilepsy Foundation had not issued a warning about the new site. The warning is available on their twitter feed.

To be clear, my main complaint about the redesign is not the design itself, but rather the way feedback has been handled. The legitimate concerns of disabled and chronically ill users have been outright dismissed, and instead of addressing concerns Ravelry–and Cassidy in particular–has doubled down stating there are no issues. This is erasure of the experiences of disabled and chronically ill users, and is outright abelism.

For years, Ravelry has stated its commitment to queer and POC users of all sizes, shapes, colors, orientations, and religions. The decision to ban support of Trump on the site was supported broadly by existing users, and furthered the commitment to protecting Ravelers of all kinds. But this erasure directly harms groups Ravelry swore to support. Roughly 27% of the general population is disabled, and this number jumps to about 35% when discussing the LGBTQ+ community. Blacks and other people of color are far more likely to be denied medical care, pain killers, or even a diagnosis. For example, while asthma is a common condition in the US and typically easily controlled through medication, black women are almost three times more likely to die of the disease than white men because medical professionals accuse them of “faking” or “exaggerating” symptoms, and that is even before we add issues like income inequality and access to treatment into the picture. How much harder do you think it is for a black woman with chronic migraines or epilepsy to get treatment? Blacks already have the highest death rate from epilepsy.

At present, Ravelry is actively harming users, including LGBT+ and POC users. At the very least a formal apology needs to be issued, particularly from Cassidy, and a commitment to fixing the issues, both with the site and in how Ravelry handles similar issues in the future. The problems need to be fixed, both with the site and the company as a whole.

The crafting community depends on Ravelry. Please don’t let us down now.

Note: Almost immediately after I scheduled this post, the other co-founder of Ravelry, Jess, issued a statement on behalf of the site. While I don’t think it is enough, I do think it is a step in the right direction as it addresses some (but not all) of the issues mentioned above, promises to do better, and removes Cassidy from customer-facing contact. I am anxiously waiting to see what the next steps are and how they are handled. Thank you, Jess, for stepping forward. I hope this helps correct the direction that particular ship was going in.

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