Emojis and Accessibility: The Dos and Don’ts of Including Emojis in Texts and Emails

Crying laughing emojiA friend sent me a text the other day that said this: “Wishing you a prosperous new year excited face with money symbols for eyes and stuck-out tongue excited face with money symbols for eyes and stuck-out tongue excited face with money symbols for eyes and stuck-out tongue excited face with money symbols for eyes and stuck-out tongue. You guys free tonight? Give me a call.”

I never got to the part where I was supposed to give them a call. The emojis got in the way.

Five years ago I published a post here about how some people who are blind access a program called VoiceOver to use an iPhone — VoiceOver parrots every letter we type into a text, and a key next to the space bar on the iPhone keypad lets us choose from lists and lists and lists of emojis to use with texts. VoiceOver reads the images out loud for those of us who can’t see them. Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a sampling of what I hear when choosing from the list of “Smileys and other people” emojis:

  • “Smiling face with sunglasses”
  • “Unamused face”
  • “Winking face with stuck-out tongue”
  • “Sleeping face”
  • “Nerdy face with thick horn-rimmed glasses and buck teeth”
  • “Neutral face”
  • “Expressionless face”
  • “Smiling face licking lips”
  • “Slightly smiling face”
  • “Smirking face”
  • “Face with rolling eyes”
  • “Face with no mouth”
  • “Flushed face”
  • “Thinking face”
  • “Angry face”
  • “Pouting face”
  • “Disappointed face”
  • “Grinning face with clenched teeth”

You get the picture.

Some of the blind people I know tweet and text using emojis, but usually just one per message. Multiple emojis might be easy to ignore if you see them all the time, but listening to multiple emojis? It’s time-consuming, and if you want to know the truth, kind of a pain.

If you are texting a friend who uses a screen reader, or if you want your tweet to be accessible to all, including those of us with visual impairments, here are some simple tips:

Don’ts

  • Don’t repeat an emoji over and over;
  • Don’t place emojis throughout a message;
  • Don’t put a call to action after the emoji.

Dos

  • Do use one or two emojis if you like, most blind people get a kick out of the descriptions;
  • Do put any important information before the emojis so we’ll be more likely to hear them;
  • Do limit yourself to no more than three emojis per message.

If you use texts or tweets to market your business, your blog, your YouTube channel, remember that each of your tweets and texts sends a message out to your community. Approximately 300 million people in the world are visually impaired, and over 50 million of us are totally blind. Go easy on the emojis, and we’ll get the messsage, too!

More thoughts on disability and emojis:


 

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