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Accessibility Tip on Dashes and Hyphens

November 17, 2022

A screen reader is an assistive technology that helps people with vision impairment to access and interact with websites or applications through touch or audio. However, there are some limitations with screen readers. For example, screen readers do not know what the  symbol represents, whether it is a minus sign, hyphen, endash, or em dash, and will sometimes say "to," but more often will just ignore it. So, when you are creating content for your courses, it is always a good practice to spell out the word and any abbreviations or make a reference to your abbreviation when used for the first time. 

For example: 

"May 8th, 2022, from 3:30 - 5:00pm" 

In this case, the screen reader will read three, thirty-five.” Instead of the dash, use the word “to” so it reads May 8th, 2022, from 3:30 to 5:00pm.If you write Final exams May 14 - 20, 2022,” then the screen reader reads May 1420, 2022,” and so forth.

Another example is:

"Final exams May 14 - 20, 2022"

The screen reader will read "May 1420, 2022," so it is recommended to write "May 14 to 20, 2022."

It is also recommended when writing A+, that the word “plus” is used instead of the plus sign, as well as using the word “minus” instead of the minus sign. 

Minor changes can have a big effect on maintaining clarity for students using assistive technology.

For more information and to see how screen readers interpret text, visit the Best Practices for Accessible Links page.