Adding emojis to your captions on Instagram seems like a good idea – but could they make your content less accessible?
For the visually impaired or the blind, emoji characters can challenge the Instagram experience.
However, there are ways you can use emojis and make sure your Instagram content is accessible to all audiences.
This blog post features the social media strategist and advocate of accessibility Alexa Heinrich shares her top tips for creating a screen reader-friendly social media strategy:
Why accessibility is important
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide who are visually impaired or blind.
To consume digital content, blind and visually impaired people use assistive technology (such as screen readers) to either read the content aloud or to transcribe it in Braille.
If you don't make accessibility a priority in your social media strategy, you can prevent prospects, clients, or connections from enjoying your content.
Do you want to improve your accessibility on Instagram? Discover 5 Ways To Make Your Instagram Account More Accessible Right Now.
3 Best Practices for Using Emojis in Instagram Captions
Emojis can be a great way to add visual interest to your subtitles. However, for the visually impaired or blind users, they can have a huge impact on the clarity of your content.
Screen readers "translate" emojis by reading their meta descriptions – which is not always the easiest to understand.
With that in mind, consider how and when to use emojis in your subtitles. Here are 3 tips to get you started:
Tip 1: use emojis in moderation
It's easy to go overboard with emojis.
While emojis are easy for sighted people to consume in seconds, a screen reader user has a much slower experience.
Dr. Amit Patel, creator of @blinddad_uk, explains how this can be a frustrating user experience:
"When many emojis are together, they are read out as a long sentence: rabbit-dog-paw prints-smiley-face-laugh-cry-thumbs-up."
"Needless to say, I'm not a huge fan of emojis!"
Tip 2: check the emoji descriptions
Not every emoji has the meta description you think will. In fact, some are quite surprising.
There are also emojis with descriptions and appearances that differ depending on the platform and device.
For example, one of the house's emoji symbols is referred to as "Abandoned House", "Old House", "Haunted House" and "Derelict House" depending on where and how it is viewed by a user.
If you want to double-check the description of the emojis you use in your content, the website is an excellent resource emojipedia.org.
Emojipedia lists all known emoji with their different appearances and descriptions on different platforms and devices, making it a useful resource for content creators.
Tip 3: put emojis at the end of your caption
Finally, it's a good idea to think about where to put emojis in your Instagram captions.
Screen readers “translate” emojis anywhere they are placed in a label, which can really disrupt the flow for visually impaired users.
By adding emojis at the end of your subtitles rather than all the way through, your subtitles can be easily understood by all audiences.
With more than 1B global users It's understandable on Instagram that content creators want to do whatever it takes to make sure their posts stand out in the feed.
However, creating accessible content that is suitable for the screen reader should be a top priority for Instagram users.
After all, inclusive content means more people can access and consume it, which can lead to higher engagement, new followers, and an overall better experience for everyone on Instagram.
Are you ready to make your Instagram posts more accessible? Sign in later Schedule your posts and write your captions in advance – it's free!
Alexa Heinrich is Social Media Manager at St. Petersburg College (SPC) in Florida. She is passionate about creating accessible and inclusive content for digital communication and educating others about the realities of working on social media.