Written by Adam Kosakowski, M.Ed., ATP
A hashtag is a metadata tool used to easily compile and cross reference digital content on the web. Hashtags also make it possible for posters to share a love of cats on social media with bigger audiences. Email addresses and usernames are, well, mostly used to receive junk mail and messages from people in high school you don’t want to reconnect with. Still, what do they all have in common, and what does that have to do with digital accessibility?
They all use words with no spaces between them! Today’s tip will focus on how you can type hashtags, email addresses, and usernames in the most accessible way possible.
Hashtags: Print Disabilities and Screen Reader Users
Whether you have useable vision or use a screen reader, try reading the following hashtag:
It isn’t easy! Where does one word end and the other begin? Does it say, “Cats are the best animal sever” or “Cats are the best animals ever?” Depending on the person reading or the screen reader and its settings, either way is possible. When I tested it with NVDA (a popular free screen reader) it said, “animal sever”; if I am trying to post a cat picture, why would I try to convey that message? It’s nonsense!
To help everyone more easily read this, try using camel case. Camel case is the practice of writing with no punctuation or spaces, but using capital letters for the first letter in each word within. With camel case, the hashtag above becomes:
I bet most people would agree, even those without print disabilities, that this is much easier to read. Also, it ensures the hashtag says “animals ever” and not “animal sever.” The same goes for screen readers; this helps screen readers correctly identify the intended words.
Email Addresses and Usernames
The above case is becoming slightly more well known in the circles that focus on accessibility, but what about email addresses and usernames? I have noticed next to no one use camel case with these and yet it is just as important!
For example, my email address is obnoxiously long. I have a ten-letter last name and the text after the “at” symbol is “Oak Hill CT.” Without camel case it looks like this:
Unless someone is familiar with Oak Hill or is employed in the same organization, the address is confusing when all lowercase. And when read with NVDA it says, “Adam dot Kosakowski @ Oak Hill dot org.” NVDA says something after “Oak Hill”, but it is not discernible. It sounds like it straight up skips the “CT”! This could make the difference between people knowing my email address and not. And while I’d like less spam, I want to help people with accessibility!
The solution is simple: use camel case. And when it comes to acronyms, make all the letters capital.
Here is my email without camel case vs with:
Adam.firstname.lastname@example.org vs Adam.Kosakowski@OakHillCT.org
And here is my Twitter handle without camel case vs with:
@neatwithadam vs @NEATWithAdam
The capital “W” after the all-caps NEAT acronym may look weird, but this follows the two rules that ensure screen readers will read it perfectly:
- Capitalize the first letter of each word.
- Capitalize each letter in an acronym.
I hope you find this helpful!
This column is written by Adam Kosakowski, M.Ed., ATP
Adam works as an Assistive Technology Specialist at New England Assistive Technology (NEAT), an Oak Hill Center.
He can be contacted at Adam.Kosakowski@OakHillCT.org and followed on twitter at @NEATWithAdam