PF2E and Accessibility


Pathfinder Playtest


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Having just read the Attack the Stat Block blog post and thread, there seems to be a great deal of concern regarding the use of icons within PF2E.

As it stands, we've seen [[A]] and [[R]] as stand-ins for icons for Action and Reaction respectively, though we have yet to see the assets which are going to be used for those icons.

Comments regarding the use of screen-readers, whether the icon imagery will be suitable for colour-blindness and if a block is reformatted into large print have cropped up - as well as comments regarding how these images may cause problems when copying text out of a PDF (such as the Playtest Bestiary).

I've spoilered some excerpts below - however, I counted 21 different users commenting on the issue in a thread which, at time of writing, was merely 6 pages long.

Spoiler:

knightnday wrote:
Fuzzypaws wrote:
I hope the Action and Reaction symbols are distinct at a glance, even in low light. The symbols in the Starfinder Alien Archive book can be a little muddy and indistinct.
This x100. It cannot be stressed enough that if one cannot pick out the symbols they aren't useful.
Voss wrote:

Once again, words are better than icons- much more clear, no fancy printing costs.

Action: <text>
Reaction: <text>
It's really simple.
Valantrix1 wrote:
Being blind, from what I can tell so far, if you continue with this representative symbol nonsense, the stat block will be absolutely useless to me. I'm ok with everything else I've read though. If you can make it where screen readers can actually interpret the symbols, that is a different story.
DirtyCarl wrote:
Quote:
Quick reminder: the [[A]] symbol is code for "action," and it will have a special icon in the actual Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook and other products. You'll also see an [[R]] later to represent a reaction.

I know it seems like a small thing, but this will be extremely annoying for me. Using custom symbols means we'll lose information when copy+pasting. Screen readers (for accessibility) will also likely fail on them, and homebrew statblocks will not include the special symbols.

Please, please consider using normal text for these. I think [[A]] and [[R]] work just fine.

Paradozen wrote:

I still hope Icons are distinct and don't rely on color much

because over-reliance on color (particularly red/green for me) makes icons a lot less useful for me, being partially colorblind.
Weather Report wrote:
As for icons, this is the only part that has me fuming, on several levels; first, I do not like them in 4th Ed or SF (especially in SF, they look cheap, cheesy and gross), and my eyes are screwed (Vision Impaired, Partially Sighted and all that): I have Retinitis Pigmentosa and a Cystoid Macula Oedema, so please, please do not use icons

This seems like a topic which could merit from some comment from Paizo, as it is one which could very well have an big impact on a section of the player base.


Thanks for this, dysartes.


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I can see four ways to make this happen:


  • Change [[A]] and [[R]] to a literal [A] or [R] (similar to how 4e did it with [W])
  • In the PDFs, have the text [[A]] and [[R]] overlaid with the picture icon, so a copy-paste (or screenreader) will see the text including the [[A]].
  • Find a similar character in Unicode and use it instead.
  • In the Unicode private-use plane, put the icons for [[A]] and [[R]], then freely release a font that contains them (may have some legal issues with the commercial fonts you use).

I hope that something is done here.


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Personally I'd love it if they just switch to plain [A] and [R].

And I don't even have an accessibility problem, it's just much easier to read, especially out of context.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

On a web page, the way to do this is to have an element (div, span etc) that contains the actual words, but which is replaced with a symbol by CSS. That way, anything that looks only at the text would see the word "action" rather than the symbol.

I don't think PDF makes this as easy, since it's a format that was designed for print before anything else. Text replacement techniques tend to go wrong.

I'm actually in favour of icons as a way of making information clear at a glance, but they do need to consider the accessibility of them in all sorts of ways.

I think the advice for designers on handling colour blindness applies here: colour is a great way of conveying information quickly, but it should never be the only way because some people can't see it. Instead, colour should be an enhancement on a presentation that's already clear. So, for example, the icon for a reaction may be a different colour from the icon for an action to make it quick to pick out, but it also needs to be a clearly different shape, one that's distinct even if your eyesight is blurry and you can't see the colour; and it needs to somehow produce text that screen readers can understand.


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I use http://www.d20pfsrd.com/ in preference to the rule books, even the pdfs, because it is far easier to navigate.

Please make John Reyst's life easier by making it easy to copy and paste from pdfs. He puts in a mammoth effort already without having to manually replace fancy symbols.


Yeah, this has me kinda worried and I don't have any accessibility issues. It's just, icons have to be learned and are harder to read if found in the middle of sentences. The only advantages they have (especially in this case where they replace single, short words) are for printing and formatting.

On the flip side, what we're getting in the blogs looks like it's being copypasted from the documents, and in the blogs we get [[A]] and [[R]], not symbols, so I'd assume that it's going to stay like this in PDFs (with an icon overlaid on top)? Maybe it's wishful thinking, though.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

We have a lot of aging gamers, some verging on elderly.

Please be sure that the print materials remain as accessible as possible, because more and more of the fan base is reaching the time when body parts begin to fail.

Gary Gygax would be 80 this summer if he had lived.


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My wife is icon blind. She has a terrible time figuring out what the little pictures mean. In this particular case, she can memorize two icons, but she isn't going to be happy about it. As for me, I am curious what little picture clearly represents reaction, which seems very non-pictorial.

Are [[A]] and [[R]] the only icons? What about an action that takes two simple actions? Will it get its own icon, or will it use two action icons, or will it have an [[A]] icon followed by an explanation that it takes two actions?


I've been getting into the Fantasy Flight Genesys system (which is the generic version of their Star Wars games) which uses bespoke dice covered with symbols rather than numbers.

Their rules text is full of little blue boxes for the boost dice, little purple diamonds for the difficulty dice and so on. Basically every mechanic is expressed in dice (you add 'bad' dice for difficulty, not raise a DC or penalize a number, you add 'good' dice for skill or a masterwork tool and so on), so the symbols are *everywhere*.

I don't know the first thing about assistive technology PDF readers, but are they able to be easily modded to read symbols like that? Are the Fantasy Flight books a huge pain in the neck for visually impaired folks or is there some convenient workaround?

Any blind Edge of the Empire players round here? Does it work at all or is it just a mess?


I'm largely unaffected by this issue, is it reasonable that I am curious as to whether there is a group of people for whom icons are easier. Do, for example, some dyslexics that would find it easier to interpret icons?


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dragonhunterq wrote:
I'm largely unaffected by this issue, is it reasonable that I am curious as to whether there is a group of people for whom icons are easier. Do, for example, some dyslexics that would find it easier to interpret icons?

Classic.


Weather Report wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
I'm largely unaffected by this issue, is it reasonable that I am curious as to whether there is a group of people for whom icons are easier. Do, for example, some dyslexics that would find it easier to interpret icons?
Classic.

?


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Being totally blind, I know that almost all icons in almost every game I've found them in, are absolutely worthless when it comes to screen readers. Most of the time the icons doen't even show up at all. Starfinder icons for instance show up as a number. Unfortunately, that number is never the same, even for the same icon. Its beyond annoying.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

From the perspective of a person who came to TTRPGs through board games first, and whose majority of players made the same transition, I've seen a lot of situations in which a rules element explained once and distilled down into a distinct symbol can make things extremely helpful. I've also seen it where it muddies things considerably. I think, ignoring for the moment the visibility issues, that actions and reactions in the bestiary can be a case for the former (because of information density and repetition), while the same symbology applied to the CRB will likely become the latter instead (because of how spread out things are).

Returning to an accessibility standpoint, I wonder how much extra work it would require to simply make an "accessible version" of the PDFs that are explicitly designed to work with the tools which make it possible for those with difficulty reading? I really have no idea how much of a burden such an endeavor would place on Paizo, or if that would even be lessened by planning for it from the ground up.

The rest of this post is roughly 65% serious.

One cool thing about consistently using the icons which occurs to me from my love of board games is tokens! Make sets of little plastic or cardboard chits, some with the [[A]] symbol on both sides and some with the [[R]] symbol on both sides. Give an [[R]] token to each player and the GM, and give a set of 3 [[A]] tokens to the active player/monster. Then the person, on their turn, when using any action or composite action passes the appropriate number of tokens to the entity next in initiative order. Similarly, any player can toss their [[R]] token into the middle of the table when appropriate to use a reaction, and gets it back on their turn. It could make an already pretty intuitive system even easier to learn for new players, while simultaneously building in a function of letting the player on deck know that their turn is coming up soon so start thinking about it. Something to possibly include in a beginner's box.


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Valantrix1 wrote:
Being totally blind, I know that almost all icons in almost every game I've found them in, are absolutely worthless when it comes to screen readers. Most of the time the icons doen't even show up at all. Starfinder icons for instance show up as a number. Unfortunately, that number is never the same, even for the same icon. Its beyond annoying.

With my bad eyesight and dyslexia, I personally find large visual icons much easier to use in play for directing my eyes to the right part of the stat block quickly and preventing me from spending a lot of time trying to read text that isn't relevant to what I am looking for, as long as the icons are designed to be simple and clearly distinguishable. The Starfinder Icons have not been that for me. I also think that Icons are a bad idea if paizo cannot find a way to make sure that there are PDFs that are specifically designed and tested to work with screen readers. It would be really awesome if pathfinder's digital resources could utilize more white space generally.


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Valantrix1 wrote:
Being totally blind, I know that almost all icons in almost every game I've found them in, are absolutely worthless when it comes to screen readers. Most of the time the icons doen't even show up at all. Starfinder icons for instance show up as a number. Unfortunately, that number is never the same, even for the same icon. Its beyond annoying.

This may be a dumb question, but what WOULD show up on your device? I actually had to double check that my phone wasn't converting the icon already. What I read was

Bracket Bracket A Bracket Bracket [[A]]

And I am surprised that the device doesn't register the bracket character. Would something like this work better:

Parenthesis Parenthesis A Parenthesis Parenthesis ((A))

I definitely want this game to be accessible to you, and I imagine Paizo does too. Obviously, you are under no obligation to explain any of this, and I would hope Paizo has the resources to solve this problem without a how to guide from you, but as someone with some loose aspirations to generate gaming content I am curious what works best.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Valantrix1 wrote:
Being totally blind, I know that almost all icons in almost every game I've found them in, are absolutely worthless when it comes to screen readers. Most of the time the icons doen't even show up at all. Starfinder icons for instance show up as a number. Unfortunately, that number is never the same, even for the same icon. Its beyond annoying.

This may be a dumb question, but what WOULD show up on your device? I actually had to double check that my phone wasn't converting the icon already. What I read was

Bracket Bracket A Bracket Bracket [[A]]

And I am surprised that the device doesn't register the bracket character. Would something like this work better:

Parenthesis Parenthesis A Parenthesis Parenthesis ((A))

I definitely want this game to be accessible to you, and I imagine Paizo does too. Obviously, you are under no obligation to explain any of this, and I would hope Paizo has the resources to solve this problem without a how to guide from you, but as someone with some loose aspirations to generate gaming content I am curious what works best.

Currently, I can read the [[A]]. It isn't the problem. The problem from what I understand is that this is just a stand in for the actual icon they plan on using in the future. I have no idea what that will be, which is why I'm concerned.


"CRYPTIC METAPHOR!"


Valantrix1 wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Valantrix1 wrote:
Being totally blind, I know that almost all icons in almost every game I've found them in, are absolutely worthless when it comes to screen readers. Most of the time the icons doen't even show up at all. Starfinder icons for instance show up as a number. Unfortunately, that number is never the same, even for the same icon. Its beyond annoying.

This may be a dumb question, but what WOULD show up on your device? I actually had to double check that my phone wasn't converting the icon already. What I read was

Bracket Bracket A Bracket Bracket [[A]]

And I am surprised that the device doesn't register the bracket character. Would something like this work better:

Parenthesis Parenthesis A Parenthesis Parenthesis ((A))

I definitely want this game to be accessible to you, and I imagine Paizo does too. Obviously, you are under no obligation to explain any of this, and I would hope Paizo has the resources to solve this problem without a how to guide from you, but as someone with some loose aspirations to generate gaming content I am curious what works best.

Currently, I can read the [[A]]. It isn't the problem. The problem from what I understand is that this is just a stand in for the actual icon they plan on using in the future. I have no idea what that will be, which is why I'm concerned.

Oh, cool, that makes sense. I had the impression that the [[A]] was going to be what they actually used since it keeps popping up in the blogs. Hopefully that's the case? But I get your concern there. I'd hope that if this is a problem in the playtest that it won't be for the final release.


Erik posted this in the main stat block thread - I've only trimmed the bit about the survey thread.

Erik Mona wrote:

We're doing some experiments with symbols and color in the playtest book, which has already gone to the printer, so that ship has sailed in the short term.

Of course, the whole thing is a playtest, and we'll be monitoring responses as we go. I think even in-house we are skeptical that color is a useful way to delineate information, so that one is really on the fence, and I suspect we'll be finding another way to handle the way it is used in the final book (overall it's fairly minor).

The symbols are a different story. We think they'll really help, but it remains to be seen if we're correct about that. Accessibility is a VERY important issue to us, so I'd say that's the primary metric we'll be using. The action symbols we're using are fairly large and not very plentiful in terms of variety, so we want to see how people feel about them as we begin working on the final presentation of the game.

It's my suspicion that the PRD and all "text-based" versions of the rules will have the [A] and [R] designations in plain text, which should help with ereaders and the like. We're going to be experimenting to see if there's a way we can code the symbols so that our visually impaired readers have to jump through as few hoops as possible with this stuff when using the standard Paizo PDFs, but this is a bit new to us and it'll take us a while to fully work out the best way to handle this.

The rules, the art, the presentation. To some degree all of this is part of the playtest, so it's very helpful to have people raising concerns about things that, well, concern them at this stage. Thanks for your continued feedback, everyone!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

If you use Icons, include the words as well. The Icon can be a method of attracting attention to the term, but wouldn't be noticed by screen readers. Thus you would have vision-impaired people able to use screen readers to understand the term.

In using both Icon and the term, it allows the Icon to be identifiable for its use in gaming aid cards and the like - this is the reason I assume you're pushing for Icons - for stat cards and the like, where space IS at a premium. But for the regular rulebook itself? If you use the Icon, include the word (thus [[A]] Action: X).

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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Hey there all,

I am very concerned about this issue and am looking into ways we can ensure that our visually impaired players have the same access to the game information as everyone else. As Erik mentioned, the book has gone to print using icons in a lot of places and color coding in a few (these are fortunately not as critical to play as the icons).

Using icons (and there are only 3 in the book, although one of them has a bit of variation to it) really helped us to be able to locate and use rules text in play, but I do not want this utility to come at the cost of the visually impaired.

I am not sure what the answer is right now. I am still doing some research into what we can do within pdfs to resolve this problem. Outside that, we will be keeping an eye out on feedback throughout the playtest to ensure that the final version of the game is usable by everybody.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Jason Bulmahn wrote:
I am not sure what the answer is right now. I am still doing some research into what we can do within pdfs to resolve this problem. Outside that, we will be keeping an eye out on feedback throughout the playtest to ensure that the final version of the game is usable by everybody.

I for one appreciate you getting in touch with us about this.

The Playtest sourcebook is already a moot point. That said, you probably can still alter the PDF, and many visually-impaired would probably use PDFs with Screen Readers. (I'm not entirely sure on the specifics as my brother has been dead for over a decade and the technology has advanced significantly since then.)

Where this is truly important is in the final rules. If we (the visually impaired, allies, and Paizo) can work together to ensure the rules come out in a form that is usable and friendly for the visually impaired, then that is going to ensure Pathfinder 2 is the best game out there for all walks of life. :)


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Jason Bulmahn wrote:

...

I am still doing some research into what we can do within pdfs to resolve this problem.

...

You can add alternate text to images in a pdf that serves the same function that alternate text does with images on a web page. Anyone looking at the document will see the image, but those using screen readers will hear the alternate text.


While not visually impaired, except for age, I will hope that the icons are distinct and easy to identify. An example of some that are a bit unclear in places for myself and some of my players would be those in the various bestiaries. In some cases, they are unintelligible muddy squiggles that are less helpful than just having the words, despite any space saved.


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Jason Bulmahn wrote:

Hey there all,

I am very concerned about this issue and am looking into ways we can ensure that our visually impaired players have the same access to the game information as everyone else. As Erik mentioned, the book has gone to print using icons in a lot of places and color coding in a few (these are fortunately not as critical to play as the icons).

Using icons (and there are only 3 in the book, although one of them has a bit of variation to it) really helped us to be able to locate and use rules text in play, but I do not want this utility to come at the cost of the visually impaired.

I am not sure what the answer is right now. I am still doing some research into what we can do within pdfs to resolve this problem. Outside that, we will be keeping an eye out on feedback throughout the playtest to ensure that the final version of the game is usable by everybody.

We have three players with three different type of colour blindness in our table. They just can't figure out the content of most images in PF1 books. Please do not make icons that will hinder their gaming.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Yeah. I've got a color-blind player. Traditional male color-blindness but even so. And hey, my eyes get tired so I need brighter light to read the page... but when the glossy page hits the light I have enough trouble reading text, let alone the colored text.

This is a problem.


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Not sure if this has already been posed, but is it possible for the letter being "icon-ised" to be inside the icon, and thus still visible/readable by a device?


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Well, as the icon/symbol ship has sailed for the playtest ("snazzy"), I guess we'll have to wait for the product to see if it needs addressing.

Either way, I definitely prefer the ability/power/weapon title before the action/actions, so reading down the line it is not action/symbol after symbol, I would rather read:

Tentacle (1 action/icon)

Than:

1 Action/Icon, Tentacle


I think the trick may be making the icons or color coding a redundancy. You should be able to tell what's what without them, and at most they should make it easier to read. In a perfect world, you would be able to create a solution that would be equally usable regardless of vision. In practice, I suspect that it may be hard to maximize the readability for all readers in a single format.

Looking over the use of the icons right now, I THINK it doesn't look any harder to decipher than PF1 even if all the icons were removed. I think you'd just need to remember that stuff like Stride, Strike, Manipulate, or Verbal Casting or all actions. It should still be pretty obvious what your melee attack actions are, for example, and having the action icons next to casting components doesn't tell me anything I shouldn't already know from the rules. All the icons accomplish is drawing my attention to these things.

Two possible exceptions on the Redcap: Deadly Cleave and Stomp. The former has to be clear that is a reaction. Hopefully this can be recognized from the key words Trigger/Effect. I suspect it might help if reactions weren't interspersed in the middle of actions, though. For stomp, sans icon it might be ambiguous that Stride and Strike are being combined into one action. Adding "As one action, the redcap strides up to..." might suffice there.

Am I off base with my assumptions above, folks? Any ideas for alternatives? I suspect merely replacing the icons with the word ACTION wouldn't help anybody, as it would just wind up being more words cluttering up the stat block. I will say that the current bracket thing draws my eye decently well-- I might not mind if that was used in lieu of an icon, or at the very least the PDFs could replace the icon with the brackets. That being said, I dunno what the icons look like yet, and they might be a significant improvement for most players. Would having the icons be replaceable with brackets for PDF versions be viable, or are there folks who would find icons in the printed version as much of a problem as color coding?


Yes, I would like Reactions to have their own header. Easy to look out for during play.

Reactions
Tail-Swipe
Neck-Slap

Actions
Bite (1)
Charge (2)
Power Attack (2)
Whirlwind Attack (3)


In PFS and SFS, we still have people who print out the adventures and pregens in black-and-white. So in addition to the natural kind, we have frugality color-blindness.


Did anyone who attended PaizoCon happen to see these icons?

It'd be interesting to see what they thought, if so.


Yeah, there are a few comments on them in the panel thread. Also, the relevant video had at least a few icons for the Grim Reaper's stat block.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
whew wrote:
In PFS and SFS, we still have people who print out the adventures and pregens in black-and-white. So in addition to the natural kind, we have frugality color-blindness.

One of the hardest rules to get across to new designers is that their design needs to work as well in grayscale as it does in color. Back when faxes were a thing it was a great training tool to show someone what their graphic looked like after it had been faxed.

A design (logo, letterhead, book cover, illustration, etc) isn't useful if it has to be printed full-color in order to be 'read'.

So, given the high level of talent and experience of Paizo designers, it's very likely that they already know this. Never hurts to remind people of this design goal, though.


CrystalSeas wrote:
whew wrote:
In PFS and SFS, we still have people who print out the adventures and pregens in black-and-white. So in addition to the natural kind, we have frugality color-blindness.

One of the hardest rules to get across to new designers is that their design needs to work as well in grayscale as it does in color. Back when faxes were a thing it was a great training tool to show someone what their graphic looked like after it had been faxed.

A design (logo, letterhead, book cover, illustration, etc) isn't useful if it has to be printed full-color in order to be 'read'.

So, given the high level of talent and experience of Paizo designers, it's very likely that they already know this. Never hurts to remind people of this design goal, though.

Spells seem to have color coded name bars, but so far it sounds like this is just an at-a-glance indicator of what kind of spell it is - heightenable vs non-heightenable. If that's the case, I can live with it, since the information is still in the description, as long as the specific colors they pick aren't colors that a color-blind person can confuse.


I feel like I should add that the resolution of the twitch stream wasn't great, and I couldn't read a lot of the text on screen. But the icons did immediately draw my eye to actions and reactions, and looked decently distinct at a glance. *shrug*


Weather Report wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
I'm largely unaffected by this issue, is it reasonable that I am curious as to whether there is a group of people for whom icons are easier. Do, for example, some dyslexics that would find it easier to interpret icons?
Classic.

What do you mean? Are you being sarcastic?

I don't get it. Please, play nice.
If I'm barking up the wrong tree then I'm sorry.
Good Gaming to you all:-)

Liberty's Edge

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Not blind, but having seen special icons in 4e, I found them a huge pain.

They were a pain for online resources, which are now even more important with tablets and smartphones being ubiquitous.

They were a pain for 3rd Party Publishers, as each had to make their own little icon and each 3PP ended up looking different.

They were a pain for homebrewing, as I didn't have access to the icons and couldn't make my own font and had to cut-and-paste images.

They were also pain to copy from the e-tools into Word or Open Office, making it annoying to transfer official statblocks for printing. I can only imagine PDFs would be worse.

Plus...
I also just ran some FFG Star Wars, and writing that adventure ahead of time was a pain in the ass, as I had to find way to represent a half-dozen little icons in Google Docs.

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