What constitutes an accessible email? To meet basic accessibility requirements, an email message must:
- Use a descriptive subject line
- Use heading elements in code
- Maintain a logical reading order
- Include enough contrast between text and background colours
- Provide text alternatives for images
- Feature meaningful link text
- Keep your code concise
For many years, the internet wasn’t accessible to those with certain disabilities. As tech continues to develop, however, some platforms are becoming more inclusive.
Take YouTube, for example. Just a decade ago, those with blindness, vision impairment, and other visual differences had trouble using the platform. Tommy Edison, a blind YouTuber, sought to change that. He, along with several other members on the platform, have ensured YouTube is now more supportive and accessible. While YouTube is a massive platform, accessibility isn’t a massive goal. In fact, you can easily employ email accessibility in your next campaign, just by slightly altering your methods.
In order to create email accessibility, you should understand why it’s important. Blindness and other degrees of limited vision are quite common. 285 million people worldwide are considered to have visual disabilities and differences. 36 million are blind, and 246 million have low vision. Additionally, many people are colour blind. Among people with Northern European ancestry, the most common form of colour blindness (red-green) occurs in ~1 out of every 12 males and ~1 out of every 200 females. Worldwide, blue-yellow colour blindness affects ~1 out of every 10,000 people.
These visual differences are significant, especially when considering how often colour is used to convey meaning or actions online. As you can see, email accessibility is valuable for millions worldwide. Vision Australia is Australia’s leading national provider of blindness and low vision services. They work in partnership with blind or low vision individuals to help them achieve the possibilities they choose in life. Digital Access at Vision Australia is recognized internationally as an industry leader in the provision of digital accessibility services, equally addressing the needs of all disability groups. A member of the W3C since 2002, Digital Access significantly contributed to the creation of WCAG 2.0.
This article will largely focus on best practices for designing accessible email campaigns. Specifically, you can use these methods to help those relying on screen reading devices, including audio prompts (such as synthesized speech) and keyboard-only access.
Use the following checklist based on W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to make sure your email campaign is accessible prior to send.
- The subjectline is concise and descriptive.
- Tables are optimized to preserve logical reading order
- Heading elements used
- Text colour contrast is sufficient
- Images have suitable alt attributes
- Headings summarize content that follows
- Link text is meaningful (not “read more” or “click here”)
- Images have meaningful alt attributes
Desktop and webmail
- Email content is zoomable to 200% without losing content visibility or function Yes
- Content is fully keyboard accessible and demonstrates a visual focus
- All images retain alt text
- Headings, lists and structural HTML mark-up is retained
- Reading order is logical and as intended
- Email content can be resized using a pinch zoom gesture
- All content can be read using a device screen reader (e.g. VoiceOver)
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