I was scrolling through Twitter today when a Tweet by someone I don't follow about a topic I'm privileged not to be intimately familiar with happened to catch my eye:
So you know all those emoji and punctuation marks in your Twitter names get read aloud by screen readers, right? If it takes me longer to hear your Twitter name than to read your tweet? I scroll right on by. Please remember this when adding lots of emoji to things. Thanks.
— Sassy Outwater (@SassyOutwater) January 2, 2018
I say I'm privileged because, while I joke about being blind because I've been wearing glasses since 2nd grade, I'm not actually impaired. I've never had to experience this wild and wonderful thing we call the internet without the gift of sight. And, throughout my career as a web developer, accessibility was often an after-thought.
This is a huge problem! And I wish I could do more about it.
Though, as the original poster of this pointed out, there is one thing all of us can do. We can be a little bit better about how we use structured data. In other words, when a field online asks you for your name, don't add emoji or other characters that will muddy the data.
If you aren't familiar with how structured data works, think of it this way:
Suppose you decide to organize your refrigerator. You have a few drawers in there and they are labelled. One is labelled "vegetables" and another one is labelled "desserts." You expect that other people will see your labels and act accordingly; put the carrots and such in the veggie drawer and put all the glorious chocolate treats in the dessert one.
But then, one day, you are really craving that chocolate chip and nutella cookie pie for dessert and you open the dessert drawer to find an onion instead. Or, worse yet, the cookie pie is still there — alongside the onion — but the onion was cut into and its contents have leaked onto your cookie pie which means what you really wanted is now covered in onion juice.
You could still have the cookie pie, but it wouldn't be an enjoyable experience. If you don't pay attention to how you enter data, you might be creating a negative experience for someone on the receiving end of that data.