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Why I stopped using ASCII art

Posted in Accessibility

I love those old-school ASCII art drawings. They’re full of character and pre-emoji charm. Remember using a colon and a closing bracket for a smiley face? Or my personal favourite, the shrug:


Visually, it has a lot going for it, but to a screen reader users (apologies if you’ve just listened to that via a screen reader!) it’s gibberish:

Space with a combining macron backslash underscore comma underscore slash space with

I should mention that I’ve never actually typed all of those brackets, slashes and underscores; I map a shortcut like sshrug to a text snippet.

What I’m doing instead

Instead of burdening non-sighted people with all of those ASCII characters, I’m sticking to emojis:


That one conveys the same visual meaning as the ASCII shrugger but is much more understandable for screen reader users:

Man shrugging

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Here are a couple more posts for you to enjoy. If that’s not enough, have a look at the full list.

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  2. Screen reader users and the tab key

    People who use a screen reader on a laptop/desktop generally use the keyboard, but that doesn’t mean they use it like a keyboard-only user.