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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Social Media Accessibility & Inclusivity

Accessibility Mistakes to Avoid

Using Non-Alphabet Characters

It might seem fun to use symbols in place of alphabetical ones to make your text stand out, but for someone using a screen reader, your message will be completely indecipherable. To see what the tweet below sounds like when read out by a screen reader, check out this twitter post by Kent C. Dodds.

Tweet written with mathematical characters replacing alphabetical characters that reads "You think it's cute to write your tweets and usernames this way. But have you listened to what it sounds like with assistive technologies like VoiceOver?"





Using Punctuation or Symbols to Make Emojis

Before the dawn of emojis, creative internet users often used keyboard punctuation to create their own emojis, from the simple colon parenthesis smiley face to the more complex shoulder shrug (known as shruggie) created with a series of dashes, slashes, parenthesis, and a few other symbols. But these don't make much sense when read by a screen reader. It's better to just use your standard keyboard emojis which a screen reader can identify and read out.

Making "Text Art"

Text art, sometimes referred to as ASCII or keyboard art, is when symbols are used to make pictures. The example of text art below takes a screen reader over thirty seconds to read, according to this blog post on How to share text art (and images) more accessibly (on twitter, mostly). If you do want to make text art, you can share it accessibly by creating the art, taking a screenshot, and sharing the screenshot with an image description.

A tweet from the WA Census Alliance with "2020" illustrated using non-text characters and the text "we're making sure everyone counts" written in the middle.

GIFS or Videos with Flashing Lights

Flashing lights can cause seizures for people with epilepsy, especially when they are flashing at a rate of three times or more per second. If you want to check to make sure your web content is safe for people with epilepsy, you can download the free Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool to test your content. If you do include content that could be potentially triggering, provide a content warning.

Speaking for Groups You Don't Belong To

It's great to want to highlight issues affecting people from underrepresented groups, but it's important to uplift their voices rather than speak for them. Use your platform to amplify the voices of others rather than paraphrase what they have said.