Adding Emojis for inclusive content: Unlocking Section 508 compliance

  • 8.09.2023

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    Today’s tech world is all about shortcuts. A perfect example is emojis. Instead of typing lots of words, we use these little pictures to show our feelings. Many individuals prefer using a thumbs-up emoji instead of texting “I’m cool with that” or “I agree.”

    Over 10 billion emojis are used daily, with over 95% of internet users employing them.

    With over 3600 emojis available, they are not just timesaving; in fact, emojis have become a separate language that everyone gets. Additionally, they make messages more interesting and friendly. The increasing popularity of non-verbal conversation can also be studied by looking at the latest figures by Statista, which say that 68% of users in the United States agree that emojis are more fun and 45% prefer using emojis to save time.

    Indeed, emojis are fun; though the accessibility aspect is often overlooked when it comes to content creation using emojis. The use of emojis can potentially pose accessibility challenges if not implemented correctly. Oversight of emojis in a document or on a website would violate Section 508 compliance, which mandates accessibility of digital materials to people with disabilities.

    Let’s find out the proper way to use emojis for inclusive content while confirming accessibility standards.

    Understanding Section 508 compliant inclusive content

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that websites, documents, videos, and all other digital assets must be designed and maintained in ways that enable individuals with disabilities to access and engage with them effectively.

    Section 508 compliance promotes equal opportunities and inclusivity, making information and services available to a broader audience. Whereas, the inclusivity offered by emojis aligns with Section 508 compliance. Emojis ensure accessibility to individuals with diverse linguistic backgrounds. When it comes to accessibility compliance, emojis introduce an emotional dimension. These prove valuable for individuals with limited expressive abilities.

    For instance, there is a social media account of a federal agency which shares emergency weather updates. Here, Section 508 compliance ensures that emojis are used thoughtfully to enhance inclusivity. Instead of relying solely on textual updates, the weather updates can be complemented with weather-related emojis for sunny days or rainy ones. These emojis are similar to visual signposts that benefit all users, including those with cognitive disabilities or limited English proficiency, making your content more inclusive and accessible.

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      Emojis for 508 compliant websites

      Emojis can make visual content, such as infographics and diagrams, more accessible. By using relevant emojis alongside text descriptions, individuals with visual impairments can better understand the content.

      Alternative text (alt text) is essential for screen readers used by individuals with visual impairments. Including emojis in alt text provides a more comprehensive description of content and adds emotional context.

      Emojis for Cognitive Accessibility: Emojis can simplify complex concepts or instructions. Using emojis alongside text can aid individuals with cognitive disabilities in understanding and retaining information. Emojis break up text blocks, improving readability for individuals with cognitive impairments like dyslexia. They provide illustration which helps in comprehension.

      Emojis in User Interfaces: Emojis can serve as navigational icons, simplifying website interfaces for users with cognitive disabilities or limited literacy skills. Interactive emojis can provide users with disabilities a more engaging and accessible way to interact with digital content, enhancing their overall experience.

      Best practices for confirming Section 508 accessibility requirements

      Always include text descriptions or alt text when using emojis. This ensures that screen readers can convey their meaning to individuals with visual impairments. In addition to this, it is important to regularly test your content, including emojis. thorough accessibility evaluations to identify and address potential issues, such as:

      Keyboard Navigation: Verify that users can navigate to and interact with emojis using only a keyboard. This is crucial for individuals who rely on keyboard navigation due to mobility or dexterity impairments.

      Screen Reader Compatibility: Ensure that screen readers pronounce emoji descriptions accurately and in context. Test different screen reader software to guarantee a consistent and meaningful experience for users with visual impairments.

      Color Contrast: Assess the color contrast between emojis and their background to guarantee readability for users with low vision or color blindness.

      Mobile Accessibility: Test emojis on various mobile devices and operating systems to confirm that they display and function correctly, as mobile accessibility is vital for a wide range of users.

      Elevating Emoji Accessibility through Section 508 Compliance testing

      By expanding your accessibility testing to cover these aspects, you can enhance the inclusivity of your content and align with Section 508 compliance standards, providing a more accessible experience for all audiences.

      Manual audits play a pivotal role in assessing the accessibility of emojis within digital content.

      • Baseline compliance through testing tools: Automated accessibility tools can detect some issues but often fall short in evaluating the nuanced accessibility of emojis. Software scans give only about a 30% accurate report.
      • The human touch of manual audits: The human touch that automated processes lack can be provided by accessibility audit experts. These specialists meticulously review content, including emojis, to ensure that alt text is meaningful, keyboard navigation is seamless, and screen reader compatibility is accurate.
      • Considering diverse user needs: Manual audits take into account the diverse needs of users with disabilities. These specialists understand that accessibility goes beyond meeting a checklist; it’s about creating a user-friendly experience for everyone. Emojis, when audited manually, can be customized to cater to specific user groups, making digital content truly inclusive.
      • Comprehensive WCAG testing: To make emoji content more accessible, manual audit experts can test the content against WCAG (1.1 text alternatives, 1.4 distinguishable, and 2.4 navigable).


      Emojis are continuously evolving, and new ones are introduced regularly. Manual audits are vital for keeping pace with these changes and identifying any unforeseen accessibility challenges that may arise as a result. The human intervention of audit specialists ensures that the content remains accessible even as emoji usage evolves.

      Whether you manage a university’s social media account or represent a business organization that receives federal funding, ensuring inclusivity in your emoji usage is paramount. Accessibility testing is a valuable tool in achieving this goal. Partner with ADACP to tap into our expertise in Section 508 compliance requirements. We can assist you in making your emoji-based content both accessible and compliant. Book a free accessibility test with our 508 compliance checker to guarantee a more inclusive digital experience for all.