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When thinking foremost about accessibility, is there any issue in replacing the word "at" with the @ (at sign)?

Example 1: "meet me @ 2pm" vs. "meet me at 2pm"

Example 2: "Topic@Company" vs. "Topic @ Company" vs. "Topic at Company"

Does this confuse screen readers or users—perhaps make them think an email address is coming? I couldn't find any resources on the topic.

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This sort of fits into a few different WCAG checkpoints, but you might have to stretch your interpretation of the guidelines a bit.

  • 3.1.3 Unusual Words - You might not consider the @ sign an "unusual word" (or even a "word" at all)
  • 3.1.4 Abbreviations - You might not consider the @ sign an abbreviation, but it kind of is for the word "at".
  • 3.1.5 Reading Level - The reading level to understand that @ means "at" might fall into the category of "advanced" reading level.
  • 3.1.6 Pronunciation - This is usually applied to real words and not symbols but the guideline doesn't specifically say that.

Most screen readers will say "at" but a screen reader user is just one persona. You have to consider people with reading disabilities too. Is it common for most everyone to associate @ with "at"? That would require a bit of research.

Unless there's a really good reason to use @, I would use "at" instead.

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  • My initial thought was to look into the abbreviations checkpoint, but I think the reading level is an interesting one I had not considered.
    – magzalez
    Aug 3, 2021 at 13:52
  • Excellent answer. Regarding unusual words and reading level, I think the at-symbol may have been quite obcure in the past, but it's far more widely understood in the era of email. Nonetheless, it may be unfamiliar to users with low computer literacy. Nov 26, 2021 at 4:20
  • Regarding abbreviations, I'd say the @ symbol is certainly an abbreviation for "at". It's in the same league as the ampersand (&), which is a stylized ligature of "Et" (meaning "and"). Nov 26, 2021 at 4:24
  • Thanks @andrew. The use of @ in emails is certainly something to consider. Nov 26, 2021 at 15:40
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Ultimately this will depend on the capabilities of the screen reader. But I think for safe measure you should use 'at'. It's only 2 characters.

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  • Thanks for your answer! I'm trying to build a case for allowing or denying a request to use the @ symbol as part of a name in text on a website, so I'm looking for some data or expertise to decide one way or another.
    – magzalez
    Jul 30, 2021 at 17:36

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