Accessibility Agony Aunt #2

Kelvin Duncan

In this week’s Accessibility Agony Aunt, we look at the use of emojis in workplace emails and messages and how to use these in an accessible way.

If you need a hand with your assistive tech, whether it is a screen reader, magnifier, speech to text system, mind mapping tool or anything else, you can ask the Accessibility Agony Aunt for help. Email your questions to - we aim to respond to all questions within a few weeks. Be sure to sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on new Accessibility Agony Aunt questions and other useful tips!

Letter 1

Hi Kelvin,

I’ve noticed that people are using emojis a lot more now in emails and interestingly, JAWS appears to be identifying them, e.g., winking face, etc. I know how to create the smiling face emoji using colon, hyphen and right bracket, but I was wondering whether other emojis can be created using JAWS?

Thanks, Sana

Thanks for your query. Believe it or not, this has been a popular question since we launched the Accessibility Agony Aunt on our website. It is hard to remember a time before emojis, although I’m sure many of us still remember a time when hammering out 555 666 and 555 or all sorts of combination of letters and punctuation on a Nokia 3210 were cool ways to express ourselves in text messages.

As you say, these days emojis don’t just seem to be reserved for the endless short-form messages we all send. They’re creeping their way into the longer, and traditionally more formal, email. In fact, I can feel a blog coming on just thinking about emojis and the informality of written communication these days.

Anyway, thanks for humouring me. Let’s get back to your specific question. To produce a graphic based emoji - and by that I mean not just a combination of characters which resemble a smiling or sad face - you simply need to hit the Windows key and full stop. This will bring the emoji panel into focus. The visual appearance of the panel will depend on your Operating System. I use Windows 11 which has additional sections for GIFs, and while the Windows 10 panel is a bit more basic, the general use of the panel is similar. Simply use your arrow keys to navigate left, right, up, and down and the screen reader should announce the different emoji options (if using Windows 11, be careful you haven’t entered a different section. If you start hearing mentions of GIF, you’ve gone too far). Select the emoji you’re after and hit the Enter key, hit Escape and hey presto! You’re done 👋.

A couple of other points to note: The emoji panel can be searched and GIF images in Win 11 are read out by screen readers like JAWS in the panel, but not detected in the body of text currently. Thanks again for your enquiry and keep an eye out for a blog on emoji in the upcoming weeks as you’ve inspired me and the team with this topic.