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How to Use Hashtags Accessibility & Inclusion

They go by many names and several variations:
  • CamelCase
  • CamelBack
  • Kebab-case
  • snake_case
  • UpperCamelCase
  • lowerCamelCase

As a whole, they are correctly known as “Medial capitals.”  They developed in computer programming languages where spaces between letters were not allowed.

They evolved with the rise of social media and have been used in hashtags. In 2007, Twitter officially recognized hashtags and added them as a searchable feature.

As someone interested in digital accessibility and inclusion, why do you need to understand them and how to use medial capitals? It is simple; they make it easier for people using screen readers, people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, and people learning the language of your communication to understand better what you are trying to say.

Hashtags are being used more and more in both interpersonal and professional communications. To make your communications more accessible and inclusive, you must learn to use them better.

Creating Hashtags

People create a hashtag by removing the spaces between words to create a hybrid word. For example, “Diversity and Inclusion” becomes #diversityandinclusion.

Most people can decode the hashtag, though it can be a challenge.  Consider the compound word “chesterfield.”  When turned into a standard hashtag, #chesterfield, it likely refers to an item of furniture upon which to sit.  But what if you are referring to a location, “Chester Field.” The simple hashtag #chesterfield could lead to some confusion.  It would be better to use the camel-back version, #ChesterField.  

I have a learning disability. It can be a struggle for me to identify the words buried within the hashtag. For example, #catscan. It could be “cats can” or “CAT Scan.” People using screen readers often run into this issue also. The screen reader can have issues with the run-on style of hashtags—for example, #diversityinclusionequityaccessibilityintheworkplacematters. (My screen reader approached that run-on hashtag, paused, and skipped right over it. It didn’t understand how to deal with it.)

Now, let’s consider another significant and growing group. Canadian workers whose first language is not English (or whatever language is the official language in your location). This group may also have difficulty identifying the words hidden within the hashtag.

What You Need To Do

The good news is that it is a simple fix. Use Camel Case for your hashtags. If you have not already guessed, the name for this solution comes from those ships of the desert – the Camelus dromedarius. The reason is that the capital letters resemble the humps on a camel’s back. It makes it easier to remember, I think.

Consider the popular social media site for professionals, LinkedIn. They use CamelCase in their name. However, the hashtag suggestions LinkedIn gives are not in CamelCase. Therefore, you need to take the time to manually type your hashtags using CamelCase to improve digital accessibility and digital inclusion. Get in the habit of doing this for all your hashtags on all sites.

Bonus Tip: Using emojis

Screen readers say the name of the emoji. Therefore, use them sparingly. Try not to use multiple emojis in a row, as this repetition may be annoying.

And let’s be honest; not everyone interprets emojis the same way. Limiting how and when you use them will help create more accessible and inclusive communication for all your viewers.