How to Optimize Your Emails for Accessibility

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Web accessibility is gradually gaining traction. And as it does, there’s a need to highlight other areas of the digital landscape that need to be optimized for accessibility to people with disabilities. One such area is email marketing. A lot of marketing communication is done via emails. Are these emails accessible to every customer though? According to the CDC, 1 in 4 American adults lives with some form of disability. That’s a significant percentage of the population (about 61 million people). In this article, I outline best practices for accessible email marketing.

1. Use the Right Colors

When you have subscribers with certain visual impairments, the right color combination matters.

WCAG recommends 3:1 color contrast ratio for graphics and user interface components (such as form input borders). WCAG Level AAA requires a contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for normal text and 4.5:1 for large text.

Contrast can make a big difference in whether or not people with color vision impairment interact with your content or not. Don’t miss out on delivering your message to your entire audience. Combine colors wisely. 

To check for contrast ratio, you can use tools like this one

2. Appropriate Alt text

Alternative text or ALT text for short is a descriptive block of text used in HTML to provide information on images for people using screen readers. It provides context for people using screen readers and for those who cannot see your images for any reason (e.g., low vision, a poor connection, or a broken source link). Whenever a screen reader encounters alt text, it simply reads it to the user. Browsers can also be set to display alt text onscreen in place of the image for users with low bandwidth.

3. Cautious Use of Emojis

Whenever you send an email, your goal is to provide readers with information that benefits them and motivates them to take action. Furthermore, you must make sure that the content they are reading truly adds value and is easy to read. It’s fun to play with fonts and emojis, but do they actually add value to your content? There is some truth to the claim that subject lines with emojis have higher open rates. Emojis should never replace actual words in subject lines, only at the beginning or end.

If you think emojis add some type of value to your emails, you can include them, but they might not be seen by everyone. Similarly, pictures and videos might not be seen by everyone. At some point, flexibility will need to be incorporated, and that’s okay.

4. Responsive Design

Responsive design refers to the practice of making web interfaces that display correctly over a wide range of devices and screen resolutions. When you code your email campaigns, make sure the content formats properly. The experience of your subscribers may be poor without responsive design, and devices like screen readers may display content out of order.

Check your emails on desktop, mobile, and even different email clients before scheduling them, even if you have a responsive tool. 

5. Semantic HTML

Semantic HTML describes the use of contextually descriptive HTML tags in their right positions. For instance, rather than use generic tages like <div> or <span> to describe a section of text you should use <section>. Other examples of semantic tags include <main <figcaption>, <aside>, and <footer>. The use of semantics helps device readers deliver the best experience to their users. 

Lastly, set the HTML language attribute so that screen readers and other devices can display or pronounce your content in the correct language for your subscribers. You can improve your subscribers’ engagement with this simple fix.

Final Thoughts

In many organizations, embracing accessibility has multiple benefits, including reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience, and increasing employee productivity. Don’t be left out. Integrate accessibility best practices into your email marketing funnel and help make the web a better place.

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