Emails and Newsletters
Emails are another kind of electronic document that need to meet accessibility standards and work with assistive technologies, particularly when you don’t know the needs of the people receiving your emails. The good news is most emails are just text, and plain text is accessible by default.
Broadcast and other mass emails are often designed in content management systems like Accoustic, Mailchimp and Constant Contact, and with these tools, there are formatting options where accessibility needs to be taken into account.
The following are some quick tips to improve the accessibility of your emails.
The link text should be understandable out of context.
Screen readers include the option to read a list of links on a page, making it easier to navigate quickly. The user hears only the link text (not the URL), so the link text should be descriptive of the link’s purpose.
Don’t use “click here,” “learn more,” “read more,” or similar variations.
Remove surrounding text and read the link text on its own. If you know where this link will take you, it’s accessible.
If you have two links on the page with the same link text, make sure their URLs are identical. If you have two links on the page with the same URL, make sure their link text is identical.
Photos are typically better off not being hyperlinked. If you do link a photo, the ALT text will be what is read by the screen reader. Buttons are treated the same as links.
More information on accessible links
If your email is long, use headings to break up content.
Headings communicate the organization of the content and provide the structure for screen readers to “scan” the email.
Instead of bolding text to indicate a new section of content, use headings. Headings are ranked, with 1 (<h1>) being the most important heading, and 6 (<h6>) the least important. Headings with an equal or higher rank start a new section, headings with a lower rank start new subsections that are part of the higher-ranked section.
Avoid images that contain text.
Text included as part of an image is impossible for screen reader users to read. Images of print media, like flyers and posters, are not accessible without the use of descriptive alt text. Any text included in an image should also be written out in the body of the email.
Images must include descriptive alt text.
This includes an exact transcript of any text that may display in the image, in the order it displays. Alt text should be succinct (no more than 125 characters) and convey the emotion, purpose, and impact of the image. Alt text should contain appropriate punctuation at the end of the text. You should not include “Photo of” or “Image of” in your alt text.
More information on accessible images
Use appropriate color contrast and font sizes.
Color contrast refers to the difference between the background color and the foreground/font color. This difference has implications for accessibility. Online contrast checker tools can be used to check the accessibility of background/ foreground combinations.
Foreground text and background must have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. Large text is defined as 18pt and larger, or 14pt and larger if it is bold.
More information on accessible color contrast
Do not use attachments if possible.
It is not best practice to add attachments to your emails. They can be difficult to read by screen readers, they are often unsearchable, and they can cause sending delays. It is recommended that you turn your attachments into accessible web pages and link to those webpages.
Make sure any attachments are accessible.
If you are attaching PDFs or other files, those will need to be accessible. How you make a document accessible will depend on the program you are using to create the document. Typically images are least accessible, PDFs are difficult to make accessible, and with other programs, the level of effort to make the document accessible will depend on the content and software.
Make sure you can highlight text in a PDF.
Typically if you can highlight the text in a PDF it means that a screen reader can read that text, but you will need the full version of Adobe Acrobat to make a PDF fully accessible and it can be very difficult depending on the complexity of the content.