Twitter loves a meme – who doesn’t – but the new funny bandwagon that users are jumping on isn’t accessible to everyone on the platform because it can’t be read out loud with screen readers.
In the wake of the US election, current president Donald Trump has been taking to Twitter to inform his supporters that he has very much won, when he, in fact, has not. To combat the spread of misinformation on their website, Twitter has added a disclaimer to many of Trump’s tweets, clarifying that “multiple sources have called this election differently,” or that “this claim about election fraud is disputed”. From here, a meme was born. Meme lovers are now using “fonts” to recreate the disclaimer added to Trump’s tweets for their own humourous purposes.
The format has now become so popular that brands are getting involved, which is the eternal sign on the platform that a meme has reached its peak.
If you had seen the above tweets on Twitter and used a screen reader to voice them, you might be a bit confused as to why they seem to be missing something, or not entirely make sense: that’s because many screen readers aren’t able to understand the “fonts” that are being used to write out the meme. You may be especially confused by the DiGiorno tweet, which a screen reader will voice as: “Pineapple belongs on pizza – not,” defeating the entire point of the joke! Twitter user @p0ppyfield tweeted a video in response to the tweet from Fall Guys, explaining that the meme’s format doesn’t work with screen readers:
This is what your “official sources claim” trend tweets sound like to those using a screen reader.
They’re not accessible. pic.twitter.com/ADhjktjCDu
— Poppy (@p0ppyfield) November 17, 2020
Screen readers aren’t programmed to read the symbols and mathematic notation that make up the bold, italic, or gothic fonts that you see on Twitter being used as “fancy” fonts, so instead of voicing them, it just skips over them. If symbols are being used to write out the “official sources” meme, then that leaves people who use screen readers out of the joke.
Kent C. Dodds, a software engineer and teacher, put a great video on his Twitter that shows what screen readers do when they encounter a character they can’t voice:
You 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 it's 𝒸𝓊𝓉ℯ to 𝘄𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 your tweets and usernames 𝖙𝖍𝖎𝖘 𝖜𝖆𝖞. But have you 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙙 to what it 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 with assistive technologies like 𝓥𝓸𝓲𝓬𝓮𝓞𝓿𝓮𝓻? pic.twitter.com/CywCf1b3Lm
— Kent C. Dodds 🚀 (@kentcdodds) January 9, 2019
Does that mean that the “official sources” meme should be retired? Absolutely not! Just follow the advice of many Twitter users like @bluesaturdayz:
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