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.
To create fully accessible emails, it is recommended to turn off the “Rich Text” formatting and switch to “Plain Text” which removes all text formatting including font and color, bold and italic as well as any multimedia components.
If Rich Text formatting is desired, use the following guidelines to ensure accessible content.
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:
Alt text should also be added to tables to make the content accessible to those using screen readers and to act as a stand in should the table be blocked, fail to load or is missing from the email.
To add alt text to a table:
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.
Steps for using the Accessibility Checker are the same as for Word Documents.