Accessibility is a red-hot topic in the email community right now.
We featured email accessibility in the latest edition of our State of Email Live webinar series—and saw a record number of registrations.
There’s a range of good reasons why senders are laser-focused on accessibility right now:
Implementing email accessibility sounds like a no-brainer, right? Like many things in life, it’s not always that simple.
We polled over 250 email marketers to see how far along they were with accessibility initiatives at their organizations.
As we can see, it’s a topic that’s front of mind with almost 90 percent of email marketers. But less than 10 percent actually have a defined accessibility strategy.
This isn’t surprising. Email teams are notoriously under-resourced, and implementing email accessibility measures takes time and effort.
Accessibility requires collaboration between multiple teams, including copywriting, design, HTML building, etc.
And while many web browsers have rendering standards to follow as a guide, most email clients don’t.
So, where should email senders start?
Accessibility starts with a set of basic principles that make emails easier to read.
ADA guidelines require that font sizes should be a minimum of 14 points. It’s also a good practice to make text resizable (not fixed) so readers can adjust it to a comfortable size.
The email below has body copy aligned with ADA requirements.
Here are a few other basic tips:
Dark mode is a display setting for user interfaces. Instead of the default dark text against a light screen (known as ‘light mode’), dark mode displays a light color text (white or grey) against a dark or black screen.
Dark mode is particularly helpful for people with photosensitivity because it reduces eye strain. It’s also popular with dyslexics, who generally find this format easier to read.
Senders can test if users have dark mode enabled on their devices using a media query. Armed with this information, senders can change colors and text formatting, and show or hide content appropriately.
Dark mode is quickly gaining popularity. Many non-impaired users prefer to read their emails this way.
Good color contrast is crucial for optimal email accessibility.
Emails should achieve a high color contrast for all text elements. Senders should consider readers with astigmatism, as they might find light text on a dark background blurry.
Consider designing for this condition using a semi-transparent layer behind the text, which provides contrast for both light and dark backgrounds.
Emails should always make sense without images.
To ensure messages resonate with visually impaired subscribers, senders should consider how screen readers and smart speakers will interpret the text elements they find.
A key issue is the use of tables in emails. Content in tables is often presented by column (top to bottom), but it’s read by row (left to right). This is difficult for most screen readers to correctly interpret.
Good accessibility means using meaningful alt-text to describe what each image shows. Text should be displayed over images where it can be read, rather than embedded within.
Senders should also be cautious when using non-text content like emojis and GIFs, which screen readers may struggle to interpret.
Use of semantic HTML plays a key role here by clarifying the use of document elements through clear identification of headings, paragraphs, images, and links. This helps screen readers understand which elements are meant to be read and which can be ignored.
To make their programs more accessible, email marketers must first undergo a change of mindset.
We’ve spoken with dozens of email marketers about this topic, and they’ve offered solid advice on how to implement accessibility initiatives from the ground up.
Accessibility is a complex, evolving topic, and we’ve hardly scratched the surface here. For more accessibility guidence, our friends at the DMA produced an excellent “Email Accessibility Guide” which is freely available.
To learn more about the latest email industry trends and best practices, tune in to our next edition of State of Email Live.