For some, Wordle is one of the small comforts we’ve found to bring joy to our day-to-day lives during the pandemic, on par with baking bread or Animal Crossing. For others, the grids of green, yellow, and gray square emojis as players share their results on Twitter are a nuisance interrupting their feed. They find these bright and colorful posts annoying reminders of a game they find uninteresting, too popular, or encouraging self-absorption.
But for others, these posts go beyond annoying—they’re inaccessible.
While haters can simply skim past these results, it’s a very different story for someone who uses a screen reader, braille keyboard, or other assistive technology. Assistive technology is designed to interpret digital content for the person using it: for example, screen reader technology (such as VoiceOver, TalkBack, NVDA, and JAWS) reads the content presented on a screen aloud to someone who is blind, has low vision, or is light sensitive.
In the past, assistive technology users have expressed grievances with emoji-heavy content similar to Wordle’s results. Our feeds were filled with posts laden with the “triangular flag” emoji last year as people got in on the “red flag” meme, presenting concerns about accessibility.
When sharing Wordle results and other emoji-heavy content, it’s important to know how inaccessible these results can be for disabled people and what it is like to have a feed filled with them. Crystal Preston-Watson, an accessibility engineer and screen reader user, demonstrates how these Wordle results are presented in her feed using TalkBack, the built-in Android screen reader:
Instead of a neat visual depiction of a player’s Wordle journey, screen reader users receive a long, indecipherable list of “green square,” “yellow square,” and “white large square.” Different screen readers may present slight variations on these results depending on their user’s preferences; for example, some screen reader users have set higher speed reading to skim a page. Scott Nixon, an accessibility advocate who uses a screen reader, expressed his annoyance: “They are horrible and mean nothing. [It] takes my iPhone over a minute to read it, and that’s at 65 speed.”
Marian Avery, an accessibility advocate and senior content designer, said that as someone who can’t tell the difference between yellow and green, she only learned there were green squares involved when someone else tweeted their results. “I refuse to go near Wordle because I know it’s even more inaccessible for others,” she said.
So we know that Wordle results have accessibility issues. But what do we do about it?
Before anyone grabs a torch and pitchfork, we should consider the context in which Wordle came about. Josh Wardle, the software engineer who created Wordle, said he made a prototype in 2013 and dusted it off during the pandemic for his partner, who liked word games. The game has become much bigger than he originally imagined, so he may not have considered the need for accessibility.
However, the New York Times, which recently acquired Wordle for more than a million dollars, has the resources to improve Wordle’s inclusivity and has made a commitment to inclusion and accessibility. We may expect some changes to come to Wordle and its results.
Until then, it is on all of us as players of this game to make sure the content we share is inclusive—after all, part of the fun of Wordle is creating shared experiences with others.
How to share a more accessible Wordle score
Instead of sharing directly from Wordle, share results as an image with alt text as an accessible option. We can use the wa11y.co tool, developed by Cariad Eccleston, to generate descriptive alt text for our results. Here is how:
Copy score results from Wordle.
Paste results into a social media post.
Take a screenshot of the Wordle result in the post.
Crop the screenshot only to include the Wordle results
Navigate to wa11y.co, paste in the Wordle score and copy the output.
In a new, blank post, add the score screenshot from earlier.
If you follow these quick, simple steps, you can ensure everyone can enjoy your content. It is essential that what we build, share, create has accessibility in mind from the start.