Accessibility and QR Codes

cartoon illustration of zebras with QR codes with a joke that reads, Apparently, she has tons of followers.QR (Quick Response) codes can help you connect a potential research participant with an intake form, or to a webpage with more information. They guide someone quickly to event details such as a conference registration page. But if you are going to use them, think about your audience and accessibility.

QR codes are meant to be viewed with a mobile device camera, which then interprets the code to send the user to a webpage. That makes them useful in print media such as a flyer advertising a study, or a postcard or brochure. 

However, most people view social media and email on their mobile device. That’s why you should not use a QR code in most online contexts. For example, if a mobile phone user sees a QR code as part of a social media post, the user can’t access the code’s information and view the code simultaneously. You can demonstrate this right now if you are looking at this on your phone instead of your desktop computer: accessing the webpage associated with the QR code above will be more challenging if you're viewing the newsletter on your phone (if you do scan the cartoon, it will take you to a social media account of the artist).

Best practices include:

  • A destination URL with the QR code to let the viewer know where the code will take them.
  • Even better: include a text version of the destination near the code, which will also provide an alternate way to access the information, increasing accessibility.
  • A destination URL that is a webpage, and not a PDF. 
  • Additional contact information on your flyer, such as an email address.

Finally, if you are going to share your study on social media, make sure you are creating a post that is designed for the platform; do not post an image of a PowerPoint slide, a postcard, or a pdf of a study flier as a social media post. 

Image credit: Isabella Bannerman