Email accessibility ensures that people with disabilities, or who are using assistive technologies, receive your emails and can easily understand the content. Assistive technology can include screen readers, magnifiers, joysticks, eye tracking or any of the other wonderful technology that now helps disabled people live better lives.
If your emails are designed only for the young and able with 20/20 vision, then not everyone will be able to adequately view them. That’s not what you want! Your hotel has ADA rooms and follows ADA regulations; Ensure that your emails to prospective guests can access are just as accessible.
Let’s Talk Email Accessibility
Disability rights legislation is intended to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t unduly disadvantaged in their daily lives. In the US, these provisions, including accessibility standards, fall under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
One aspect of accessibility is making sure website and communications are ADA compliant, following web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) governed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Since your emails can be viewed on the web, you must comply.
As we mentioned in our post about Website accessibility, WCAG says your content should be:
- Perceivable: available by sight, hearing and touch.
- Operable: able to be navigated and operated easily.
- Understandable, which applies to both the content and the interface.
- Robust: able to be used by multiple user agents, including assistive technologies.
Three guidelines for creating ADA-compliant emails
1. Use Accessible Typography and Design
4.5 percent of the world’s population (that’s 300 million people!) are colorblind. To cater to people that don’t distinguish color well, don’t rely on color to convey your meaning, and make sure that the colors you use enough contrast to be easily distinguished. Color contrast checkers exist to help you check contrast.
While much less common today, flickering, flashing and strobe-effect animations can trigger people with seizure disorders so rethink using these effects
While the WCAG are not specific about ideal text size, they specify that you must be able to resize content to 200% without losing content or function. Using relative rather than absolute font sizes will let users adjust text to their preferences. Responsive email templates, like the ones provided by Revinate Marketing, will help as well.
2. Create Accessible Content
When it comes to content, creating accessible emails is similar to writing accessible web pages. You should:
- Images and videos need alt-text and descriptions to allow assistive technology to describe them accurately. Essential information should be in the text and not hidden in an image. Remember to include text labels and descriptions on your opt-in forms.
- Avoid giving instructions that require people to see or hear to be able to follow them. For example, make your email subject lines descriptive so people using assistive technologies will know precisely what to expect when they hear them. Remove complicated descriptions as much as possible.
- Pay attention to links. Make sure they’re easy for people using assistive technology to follow. Avoid phrases like “click here” in favor of descriptive anchor text that tells people exactly where the link they are following will take them. And don’t turn subheadings into links; that can confuse some assistive technologies.
3. Pay Attention to Code
Use semantic elements like header tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) to indicate content hierarchy. This makes your emails more scannable and helps screen readers and other assistive technologies render the content more accurately.
Other tips include:
- Make navigation logical and include a link allowing users to skip navigation elements.
- Provide a descriptive page title.
- Use breadcrumbs and informative text to aid navigation.
- Identify the page language so that screen readers will pronounce text correctly.
- Ensure that your emails behave predictably (for example, if people are looking at them on the web).
- Make it easy for people to correct errors, for example, in your optin forms.
- Use valid HTML markup.
Make sure people can access all content via a keyboard. And pay attention to table formatting. Since screen readers read left to right and top to bottom, you may need to adjust rows and columns, so the reading order makes sense for those devices.
Finally, get to know which email clients your subscribers are using, because not all of them support all accessibility features. Since Apple Mail clients and Gmail account for the lion’s share of email readers, format your emails for those clients and you’ll probably meet the needs of most of your customers. (Revinate Marketing can help you understand your database’s mail clients.)
And, if you want to be sure you’re sending accessible emails, the best thing to do is test your emails against the W3C’s detailed checklist.