I'm formatting an online poem that uses blackout text for erasures. My plan is to use an XML block character ( █ █) or █) to replace the appropriate characters. Does this have any specific impacts on accessiblity? I'm especially curious how screen readers will handle it. I found this recent article but the block character is not addressed.

  • Is it an idea to use a black background on erased characters and make the characters also black with a strikethrough? This makes them invisible but screen readers still read them with notification of the strikethrough/deletion.
    – jazZRo
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 21:56
  • That was my initial solution, but the characters are still visible. In this case the poem is re-written and the block simply represents the removed characters.
    – Sirmontegu
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


Yes, it does affect accessibility. Most screen readers can't read symbols, and those that can only read a limited set. In these screen readers, your specific case is usually covered and they will render it as "block" or "solid block", but many screen readers will simply ignore it. For example, JAWS's latest version can read it, but Mac VoiceOver can't. It also depends on the level of verbosity the user has selected in the settings, so depending on this is quite iffy and risky.

In general, if this is for decorative purposes, then it won't be a problem. Otherwise, if this is functional, I suggest you use an image with an alt description.


  • Thank you. The blocks in this case function similar to ellipses–they represent a string of removed characters. In some cases that is a group of multiple blocks. Visually the blocks blend together and are easy to scan. If they are each individually announced it would be a poor experience.
    – Sirmontegu
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 19:52
  • well, but the thing is that you can't think of how they visually look, it's a completely different paradigm. Nevertheless, you can use conditionals, like if block = 1 (use 'alt=deleted content'); else --> group blocks in one single element --> 'alt=N blocks deleted' . Not sure which language are you using, but this kind of code is quite trivial in Javascript
    – Devin
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 21:08

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