Instagram users that are visually impaired or blind use screen readers to access social media content. Screen readers read captions aloud - including the emojis. Could you imagine trying to interpret this caption:
"Hey loves 💞just enjoying my cup of coffee ☕and getting ready to read my favorite book 📚What are you up to this sunny morning 🌞?"
read to you as:
"Hey loves Revolving Hearts just enjoying my cup of coffee Hot Beverage and getting ready to read my favorite book Books What are you up to this sunny morning Sun with Face?"
Ugh no - we'd hate that. So what can we all do to make our content more accessible? Let's get to it.
Choose Your Emojis Wisely and Never String Them Together
When you post a long string of different emojis like "Can't wait to celebrate Sarah's birthday tonight 🎂🍹🍸🥂🎉 Gonna be a blast!" a screen reader will interpret that as "Can't wait to celebrate Sarah's birthday tonight Birthday Cake Tropical Drink Cocktail Glass Clinking Glasses Party Popper Gonna be a blast!" It reads all of the emojis together as if they're one long, nonsensical sentence. If you feel your caption must include emojis, pick a single emoji and make sure it adds something to your content for both visual and audible users.
Double Check All Emoji Descriptions
All emojis have titles, and they aren't always what you'd assume. We use the resource emojipedia.com to double check all of our emoji descriptions. Did you know that every emoji that includes a person has a description that includes its skin tone? So when you use this emoji 🧖🏽♀️ a screen reader will read it as "Woman in Steamy Room: Medium Skin Tone". Two emojis we see commonly used that have very different descriptions than what most people use them to indicate are these:
💫 & 💁🏼
People often consider the first emoji a "shooting star" and the second as a "hair toss" emoji. This emoji 💫 translates as "dizzy", and this emoji 💁🏼 translates as Person Tipping Hand: Medium-Light Skin Tone. Moral of the story - double check the emoji descriptions because a screen reader reading the word "dizzy" when you're intent was to portray a shooting star is no good.
Check out this post by @hashtagheyalexa giving more examples of how screen readers interpret emojis.
If You Use Emojis, Consider Putting Them At The End of Your Captions
From our research, the best way to use emojis without messing up the flow of reading is to add them to the end of your captions. Screen readers will read the emojis wherever they fall in the caption, so if you can make sure your emojis fall in a place that doesn't interrupt the reading flow for visually impaired users, you're helping make Instagram a more accessible platform.
How will we be using emojis in light of this info? We're going to double check what the emoji descriptions are before posting, limit the use of emojis per post, and consider what they're actually adding to our content. Emojis are fine in moderation, but if you're just using them as filler - consider how they're affecting visually impaired Instagram users before clicking "Post".