Email Accessibility Best Practices
Often, we assume our subscribers are reading our emails in a traditional manner – visually, via a laptop or mobile device. But for an estimated 285 million people with visual impairments, this is not the case. These subscribers depend on adaptive technology to help them access your email content independently. Tools leveraged include screen magnifiers for low-vision computer users and screen readers for blind individuals who need your email content read aloud to them. Here are a few tips to help you create emails that are accessible by this community.
- Use larger font sizes (at least 16px) when designing your emails to accommodate the visually challenged. In addition, select a font that is easy to read and not too condensed. Not only will your visually impaired audience appreciate this, but your mobile readers will too!
- When using images, especially images containing text, follow the best practice of using ALT text. Screen readers can read this text aloud, allowing them to “read” the image and describe the image to the subscriber.
- When you can, use one-column design in your emails. This will assist people who are using screen magnifiers, as they will be able to more easily scroll through the content when it is magnified. Note: this works best for responsive design as well.
- Consider how the email will sound when read out loud by devices. Ensure that your content is grammatically correct and remember that readers will read everything out loud including links. Also, keep in mind that screen readers will also pause for periods, semi-colons, commas, question marks, exclamation points, and paragraph endings.
- Don’t rely on color to tell your story. Color blindness affects about one out of every 12 men and one in 200 women worldwide, making it difficult for those with this impairment to discern certain colors of the spectrum (especially red and green). Check out Colour Blindness: Experience It for multiple links to learn more about optimizing your site to accommodate color-blind users.
One More Email Accessibility Tip for Developers
Here is one more important tip for your email developer to include in the code to make your emails accessible for the visually impaired:
Use semantic code where you can. It’s important to use header (<h1>) and paragraph (<p>) tags, so screen readers can easily digest your content. These tags allow the screen reader to differentiate between headings and paragraphs, which creates a more pleasant reading experience and allows the user to better navigate your emails.
Add the attribute “role=presentation” to tables. This by far will make the biggest difference for visually-impaired subscribers using screen readers. Setting tables to “role=presentation” allows Assistive Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) to communicate with screen readers and interprets the table as a presentation and not data helping the screen reader to be more intuitive. Here is how your code should look:
<table width=”100%” border=”0” cellpadding=”0” cellspacing=”0” style=”min-width: 100%;” role=”presentation”>
If you’re using a table for showing data then leave the “role=presentation” off those specific tables, so they can be read as data tables.
A few small changes will make a huge difference in creating emails that are not only accessible but also give your subscribers with visual impairments a great email experience.
Additional Email Accessibility Resources:
- The EEC’s Email Marketing Accessibility Guide for Marketers & Designers
- Achieving Accessibility in Email Marketing for Developers
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