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When you launch an email campaign, you want your message to be read and understood by as many people as possible, and one way to do that is by making your emails accessible to people with disabilities. Those with visual, cognitive, auditory, or mobility impairments have special needs that can be addressed by adhering to some simple practices and assistive techniques to ensure that your message can reach them too. Failing to take steps to include these individuals is not only considered insensitive these days, it’s legally required in many countries, and more to the point, it also costs your business.
Why Email Accessibility Is Important
There are a lot more disabled people in the U.S. and globally than those who aren’t affected by it personally realize. According to the National Institutes of Health, 37.5 million American adults, or 15%, have hearing loss, 1.3 million are blind, and another 2.9 million have low vision. The Centers for Disease Control says that 25% of adults in the U.S. experience some type of disability, and the World Health Organization states that hundreds of millions of additional people around the world are disabled.
From a business perspective, it has been estimated that people with disabilities in the U.S. have $1 trillion in total income and more than $220 billion in disposable income. That makes them a demographic that most businesses can’t afford to ignore, and if you’re not practicing email accessibility, you’re missing out on a big potential market.
So how can you start making your emails more user-friendly and understandable to those with disabilities? Here are ten methods you can start using right away.
10 Tips For Meeting Email Accessibility Standards
- Create concise and straightforward content. This is something you should be doing for the benefit of all your readers. Stay away from language that’s too technical and trendy business jargon that can distract readers away from your message. It’s also a good idea to use very clear subject titles to help those using assistive technologies like screen readers understand what the email is about, and to include a link to a plain text version of the email.
- Use a larger font size. This can be very helpful for those with low vision and for dyslexia sufferers too. Aim for at least 14 pixels or larger for the best results.
- Consider your use of colors. The use of color can be important for branding and capturing attention, but it can be a problem for those with vision impairment. Text and other types of content need to have a certain amount of contrast against a background color to be visible, with the accepted standard being a ratio of 4.5:1. You can check your emails for the right contrast on any page with this handy online tool.
- Break up text content with images. You probably already know that it’s good form to keep your paragraphs short and to use subtitles, but placing images that represent a visual depiction of what’s being conveyed in the text between longer paragraphs can help to increase engagement and message reinforcement for all your readers and also help those with disabilities to understand. Keep in mind that if you use animation or graphics that flicker or flash like a strobe that it can cause seizures in people with certain disorders.
- Use alternative text for images. Alt text is an attribute that can be added to an email to display a box with a text description of what an image is for those who can’t perceive them.
- Use mobile accessibility designs. With so many people using mobile devices these days, your emails should be mobile friendly for viewing on smartphones and tablets. You can make them even more accessible to those with disabilities by including the ability to easily resize content without using third-party technology and by using large target areas for your CTA buttons.
- Use HTML5 semantic elements. Use the same heading and paragraph tags that you would use to render content on a regular web page to make your text clearer and more easily understood.
- Use “presentation” in layout tables. It’s common practice to use tables for layout and formatting purposes in emails, and you can easily make them more accessible by adding the element role=“presentation”. This tells any assistive technology to read the content but to ignore the table properties.
- Include a text description for hyperlinks. Someone using a screen reader won’t know where a hyperlink is taking them if the text just reads ‘click here’. Adding text to describe the content of the landing page will let them decide if they want to click the link or not.
- Consider adding transcripts and captions to videos. This is essential for those with hearing and vision impairments and also allows for private viewing or reading in situations where having the sound up is impractical, and when someone wants to understand the video transcript for deeper comprehension and consideration.
Creating emails that are more accessible to people with disabilities is not only considerate to your current or potential customers, but it’s also just good business practice. You can learn more about best practices in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). You should also make use of this helpful checklist, and take advantage of this list of evaluation tools to test your emails.