Assistive tech can't handle the unusual fonts people use on Twitter to be cute


#21

I mean, that’s a good thing. No one’s saying we shouldn’t think about it. And news publishers, brands, government agencies, nonprofits and others who provide utility to the public on social media should certainly keep accessibility in mind.

Edited because auto-correct mis-corrected accessibility. Very funny, auto-correct.


#22

Just so long as the conversation doesn’t turn into “won’t someone think of the software developers” - I don’t have a dog in the fight. Not a developer - don’t use the twit machine.


#23

KathyPadilla
Just so long as the conversation doesn’t turn into “won’t someone think of the software developers”

You are literally ruining their lives, KathyPadilla. :grin:


#24

#25

My inept solution: telling the typist “don’t use a comma, don’t ever use a comma!”

Your protégé, perhaps?
Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog

Edited to add alt text for accessibility’s sake.


#26

It’s not actually a different font, all the bold/cursive/italic/etc text is available in the standard unicode tables, you just need to know the correct code for them. So to a machine reader will instead of seeing an alphanumeric character will instead see the unicode reference.

Although… seeing as all the emojis that twitter can put out are also specified in unicode I wonder how this software handles those.


#27

Ah that makes sense. So if it is standard unicode, then one would think that would be super easy to transcribe to text. “Bold U” = “U”, “Black Letter E” =“E”, etc

How well does it handle typos?


#28

Couldn’t it just read the font when the font changes?


#29

Not sure that the new font would fit down the tubes. :grin:


#30

AFAIK, screen-readers read out the full Unicode name for the emoji. Every time. So :fu: becomes “Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended” to a screen reader. Something to consider the next time you decide to write :clap: a :clap: clapping :clap: hands :clap: sentence :clap:. (or as screen readers see it, “write Clapping Hands Sign a Clapping Hands Sign clapping Clapping Hands Sign hands Clapping Hands Sign sentence Clapping Hands Sign.”)

And the less said about ASCII-art memes, the better.

The thing is, this isn’t really something I think is on screen-readers to fix. Not on their own, anyway. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do: read the text as written. These “fancy” characters are deep in the Unicode extended character set for mathematical symbols, and were never intended to be used as replacements for standard Latin characters in everyday writing. They’re not just bold or italic letters, they have their own semantic meanings, which is why VoiceOver is treating them this way to begin with (also, for the record, VoiceOver’s reading speed in this person’s tweet has been cranked up pretty high, which I suspect most of its day-to-day users are used to, but it does also strongly emphasize just how unintelligible these symbols can make things).

We have actual semantic tags built into HTML to do things like indicate emphasis in ways that screen readers are totally fine with, but Twitter—and most other social media platforms—don’t provide any means of inserting them into the text of a message. Add a text-formatting bar to the tweet field so you can actually bold and italicize normal ASCII/extended characters, and this problem mostly solves itself.


#31

The original post clarifies downthread. They aren’t a clever font, they are using nonstandard characters from the mathematic symbol tables that look like a font. Twitter and the reader are both behaving reasonably, but the people who do that aren’t considering the full audience of their tweets.


#32

The screen reader is doing the correct job. Those aren’t “fonts” they’re special symbols, as for mathematics, that are being “mis-used” for their visual similarity to alternate fonts. So the screen-reader is simply revealing the truth of the text.


#33

While this does create a big problem for those who rely on assistive technologies, I imagine this also creates a problem for those who perform NLP and sentiment analysis on tweets?


#34

Large, bold heart emoji.


#35

I imagine this also creates a problem for those who perform NLP and sentiment analysis on tweets?

Dammit. Now I’m conflicted.


#36

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#37

I can’t agree with your analogy here. This seems to me to be more like their being a perfectly good ramp, but some of the users are making their contact point* up on the roof which is reachable by ladder. These characters are not a font. The use of them in that way is a hack.


* Stretching the hell out of my analogy here.


It seems it reads out the name of the emoji:


#38

That’s the thing – these aren’t different fonts. These are all special Unicode characters and/or transformations.

This text: “𝖍𝖊𝖑𝖑𝖔” isn’t a special font. It’s all made up of characters in the “Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols” block:
https://codepoints.net/mathematical_alphanumeric_symbols

For a screenreader to know this means “hello”, it needs to be able to know how to take these things that may look like letters (but technically aren’t) into letters. There’s hundreds of thousands of possible code points that can be interpreted as letters.


#39

Depends upon who you think the users are. The sighted people texting those characters or the folks with visual impairments using the app.


#40

Shouldn’t it be both?