Accessibility Tip of the Week

Characterizing content with emojis 🙂

  • Summary: Correct emoji usage will help clarify your tone and provide proper emotional context.
  • Who it helps: Emoji can help people with cognitive and learning disabilities interpret tone and meaning. Limiting emoji and placing them at the end of content helps screen reader users.
  • Additional benefits: Everyone benefits when emoji help make your meaning clear.

Often statements in email and social media can be read one of several ways. Emojis can help make your meaning clear. For example: “Fine 🙂” is different than “Fine 🙁“. Your use of sarcasm, humor or sincerity can be properly communicated by using the correct emoji.

Emoji also draws visual attention to important points. Similar to icons or other small inline images, emojis break up text and can emphasize the importance of a phrase.

Screen readers and other assistive technology read the text version of emoji. The content above reads as “Fine slightly smiling face” and “Fine slightly frowning face.” This use of emoji is helpful to the screen reader user to convey additional emotion or context. However, high usage of emoji, especially at the beginning of content, is difficult for users of assistive technology.

What can I do?

When using emojis, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not substitute actual text for emojis. Emojis are great for adding an emotional context or a quick icon, but they don’t replace actual words.
  • Use emoji to clarify your content, but don’t use too many of them. Use discretion to limit the number of emojis you include.
  • Place emojis at the end of the content. Do not use them in the beginning of a sentence and try to avoid using them in the middle.
  • Color contrast is still important when using emojis. The default color of yellow contrasts well with both light and dark backgrounds. Some of the “more natural” skin colors don’t provide the same contrast.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0    .

If you are promoting accessibility within your organization or community, sending out easy-to-understand tips can be a helpful addition to your strategy. You are welcome to share the tips here under the mentioned Creative Commons license, as long as you cite Accessible Community as your source.