An often overlooked area of accessibility is the creation of accessible emails. As emails exist as a primary mode of communication in much of daily life, it is important to make the content accessible to all users. The following are best practices for creating accessible emails using Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.

Gmail

Gmail supports the use of screen readers and other devices for accessibility. See using Gmail with a screen reader for more information.

Outlook

Steps for using the Accessibility Checker in Outlook are the same as for Word Documents.

Graphics and Images

To create accessible emails it is a good idea to avoid including images and graphics of any kind to begin with as they can be difficult to access and will not load for people who have images blocked in their email account. If images or graphics are necessary, avoid housing the entirety of the informational content of the email within the image or graphic itself and add alt text. Alt text allows the content to be read to those using screen readers and replaces the image for people who have images blocked.

To add alt text in Outlook:

  1. Right click the image or graphic that has been inserted into the email
  2. Select Edit Alt Text…
  3. Type in the text you wish to use.

To add alt text in Gmail:

Unfortunately Gmail does not have a built in option to add alternative text to images or graphics. Alt text should be added using the following steps:

  1. Open a new document in Google Docs
  2. Insert the image you want to use in Gmail into the document
  3. Right click on the image, select “Alt Text”, enter the text you want to use
  4. Copy and paste the image into your Gmail message

Links

When adding hyperlinks to an email, it is a good practice to use meaningful text as screen readers read the hyperlink text to the user.  Using the entire URL for the link text is unwieldy and using generic phrases such as “Click Here” or the like gives the user no information about the content or context of the link. Screen readers also navigate through documents via creating a list of links devoid of surrounding content to present to the user so having meaningful text is important.

  1. Select the text that requires the hyperlink, then click the [Hyperlink] button
  2. The selected text will appear in the Text to Display box and this will become the hyperlinked text
  3. A ScreenTip can also be added here to display desired text when the cursor rests over the hyperlink (Outlook only)Type the destination URL in the Address box

Accessible Text

  • Format documents with high contrast such as black text on a white background to provide higher readability to those with low vision.
  • Ensure the font size is sufficiently large, generally a minimum of 11 points is recommended.
  • Add an underline or bold font to convey meaning in place of just using color to create emphasis or meaning.

Accessibility Checker

Steps for using the Accessibility Checker are the same as for Word Documents.

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