Like any digital content, emails are accessible when created in a way that people experiencing an impairment or disability—whether permanent, temporary or situational—can understand them. When content is accessible it works with assistive technologies like screen readers, personal voice assistants (e.g. Siri, Alexa, etc.), speech to text, screen magnifiers, braille displays, keyboards, switches, etc. When emails are composed with accessibility in mind, they work better for everyone.
While various email programs and applications may vary in terms of what modifications can be made, there are some basic steps you can take with your content to help improve email accessibility.
Be clear with the email subject line
The subject line is basically a title for your email. Keep it succinct and meaningful. The subject line should provide the reader with a clear understanding of what the email entails. Avoid the use of punctuation and all caps, unless absolutely necessary.
Use headings and paragraphs
Just as sighted users can visually scan a document, assistive technology can also “scan” a document or email if it is structured properly. This means, when applicable, chunk the information into short, easily-digestible blocks or paragraphs. If the email application allows, create headings within longer emails.
Font size and style
Keep the font size at a minimum of 12pt and the font style simple. Script fonts are much more difficult to read than plain sans-serif or serif fonts. Examples of good fonts include Open Sans, Verdana, Georgia, Roboto, and Merriweather. The default or “normal” setting for size and style in most email programs is most likely sufficient.
Use lists when appropriate
Use the built-in bulleted or numbered list feature to help ensure proper structure and good readability. Lists can help break up long sections of text, making it easier to scan and read the body of the email.
Provide text equivalents
Key content should be included as text in the body of the email (for example, relevant information for an event invitation) rather than in an attachment (like a jpg or pdf).
Be aware of color contrast
Provide high color contrast to help ensure readability for people with color blindness or other visual impairments. It is recommended to keep the background of an email white with black or dark text. Do not rely on color alone to convey information. For example, if keywords in the email are highlighted in color, they should also be bold or italicized.
Provide contextual hyperlinks
Hyperlink text should clearly describe where the link goes. Avoid vague phrases. For example, the link text “View our products” is much more understandable than “Click here.” Clearly differentiate hyperlinks. Again, do not rely only on color to distinguish link text from regular paragraph text. Use an underline, outline, italics, or shaded background (with high color contrast).
When writing an email, keep the language simple, clear and understandable. Remember that emails are generally meant to be a brief form of communication, and are usually skimmed or read quickly, so keep the information to the point.