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Why Email Accessibility Matters

August 31, 2021
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When it comes to email marketing, it’s easy to assume that everyone will view your email the same way you do. As you select the color contrast and font and write the copy, you assess its quality through your own eyes. 

However, not everyone on the receiving end experiences emails the same way. 

This is especially true for people who have disabilities, ranging from blindness to dyslexia. 

Accommodating people with disabilities is important in all areas of life. Email marketing is no exception. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also allows your email marketing strategy to reach its full potential. 

Below, we’ll examine why email accessibility is so important. We’ll also review a few tactics you can use to make your emails consist of more accessible content.

What is Email Accessibility?

Put simply, email accessibility is when an email is accessible, readable, and usable for all people, including those who have disabilities or vision impairment.1 

Even if you craft the most eye-catching email with the perfect copy, it won’t resonate with all readers if it’s not accessible. Some subscribers may engage with your email differently due to having the following types of disabilities:

  • Visual Visual impairment, blindness, or color blindness
  • Auditory – Deafness
  • Motor – Paralysis, cerebral palsy, or limb injuries
  • Learning – Dyslexia

For example, visually impaired people may listen to your email with an assistive device, rather than reading it. Colorblind people may read your email, but have a hard time discerning certain colors within it. 

If you don’t have a disability yourself, designing accessible emails requires a shift in perspective. 

Fortunately, it’s an easy process once you understand the basics of email accessibility.

email marketing services

Why Does Email Accessibility Matter?

In 2021, email accessibility can no longer be treated as an afterthought. It must be built into the foundation of your campaigns. 

Here are a few reasons why:

#1 A Substantial Subset Of Your Customers May Have a Disability

Disabilities are more common than you may think. Just take a look at these statistics:

  • One in four Americans have some kind of physical or mental disability2
  • One million Americans are blind3
  • Color blindness affects 8% of the male population and 4.5% of the total population4
  • One in ten people have dyslexia5
  • Globally, people with disabilities have an estimated spending power of $8 trillion6

Such a substantial subset of consumers has a lot of sway. Neglecting their needs only harms your business prospects.

It’s also important to keep in mind that people develop new disabilities every day. If your customers  do, they’ll have to interface with your emails differently. You certainly don’t want to lose their patronage to a more inclusive competitor by overlooking email accessibility. 

#2 Inaccessible Emails Hurt Your Conversion Rate

After pouring your time, energy, and creativity into an email campaign, you want it to convert. Ignoring accessibility standards and the needs of people with disabilities is in direct opposition to this goal. 

Inaccessible emails won’t perform well with your subscribers who have disabilities. If you’re not implementing email accessibility yet, you’re essentially dragging down your conversion rate before you even hit send.

By ensuring your emails are accessible, you allow your campaign to perform to its highest potential—that means more clicks, more conversions, and a better bottom line for your business. 

#3 Ignoring Email Accessibility Leaves You Open to Litigation

If being inclusive and earning more money wasn’t motivation enough, the desire to avoid litigation should be. Email accessibility has become an increasingly prevalent issue in court cases relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).7

The ADA was implemented back in 1990. It was put in place to guarantee people with disabilities access to the same opportunities as everyone else. For example, it requires employers to provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations. It also mandates that public places offer certain accommodations, such as ramps for wheelchairs.

Since the internet has become a mainstay in our day-to-day lives, recent court decisions have applied ADA requirements to online access as well. Many businesses have found themselves in legal hot water for failing to make their websites and online services accessible. 

To avoid this type of legal trouble yourself, it’s crucial to implement email accessibility. It’s also suggested to take advantage of email segmentation and email A/B testing for any email campaign regardless. 

Email Accessibility Guidelines

Now that you know why email accessibility matters, let’s take a look at a few basic guidelines that will help you enhance the accessibility of your next email campaign. 

#1 Increase Your Contrast Ratio

Your contrast ratio is the degree of difference between your email’s background color and foreground colors.

To improve email accessibility, make sure you use a contrast ratio that’s large enough to make your email easy to read for people with impaired vision. If your contrast ratio is too low, text and images may be hard to discern from the background. 

Many email accessibility experts recommend using a contrast ratio of at least 4.5 to 1. You can test your email’s contrast ratio using online contrast checking tools.

#2 Make Text Easier to Read

After perfecting your email copy, you want it to be easy to read.

Here are a few tips to make your email’s text more accessible:

  • Align text to the left – Left-aligned text is easier to read than center-aligned text, especially for people with dyslexia. 
  • Use large, legible fonts Your font size should always be at least 14px. This will help readers with poor vision make out your email’s text on smaller screens. 
  • Use live text – Live text is simply text that isn’t shown inside an image. Unlike text within images, live text can be read out loud using assistive devices. 

#3 Underline All Links

Another simple accessibility tip is to underline your links. While it’s a common practice to make them another color, not everyone sees colors the same way. Even if a link stands out to you, it may blend in for someone with colorblindness.

Underlining your links will ensure that they’re easy to locate and more likely to get clicked. 

#4 Include HTML Language Attributes

On the more technical side of things, you should always include an HTML language attribute at the head of your email.

Language attributes tell assistive devices and search engines what language the email should be read in. In turn, text readers can pronounce the words properly and provide listeners a more seamless experience.

A text attribute for English looks like this: lang=“en”

#5 Use Descriptive Alt Text

Alt text shows up when images and videos don’t load. All SEO-savvy marketers understand the importance of alt text. However, alt text takes on an even greater significance when it comes to email accessibility. That’s because it’s the text that will be read out loud when subscribers read your email with an assistive device.

Here are a few alt text accessibility tips: 

  • Make sure your alt text gives people all of the details they need to understand your email properly if they listen to it with an assistive device.
  • Leave alt text blank for images that are sufficiently described by their caption to avoid repetitiveness. 
  • Leave alt text blank for images that are solely in the email for decorative purposes. 

Note: If you leave alt text blank for an image, don’t delete the alt attribute (alt-“ ”). Otherwise, screen readers will read the image name instead, which may confuse your listeners.

#6 Use a Logical Reading Structure 

People who listen to emails with assistive devices can’t visually jump around your email like someone who reads it themselves. For this reason, you should organize your content in a logical order and use descriptive headers when appropriate.

#7 Use Large CTA Buttons

The goal of most email campaigns is to get readers to click on your CTA button. To increase the chances of this happening, it’s in your best interest to make your CTA button large and easy to click. 

Tiny CTA buttons can be frustrating for people with motor control issues. They’re also harder to click for people who use eye trackers to move their cursors. 

#8 Test For Accessibility Before You Send

After making these adjustments, don’t forget to test your email before sending it. 

You can send your email to yourself and try engaging with it in a few ways:

  • Listen to it with a screen reader
  • Run it through a colorblind test
  • Read it from a smartphone to ensure it’s optimized for mobile

By experiencing your email from several perspectives, you can ensure it renders well for a variety of subscribers with various disabilities. 

The Best Email Marketing Campaigns Are Inclusive 

At the end of the day, email accessibility is about having empathy for others who experience life differently. Many of these people are your email subscribers and customers. 

By taking the time to understand how they interact with your emails, you can create campaigns that engage and convert as many people as possible. 

Need assistance creating inclusive campaigns? How about SMS marketing or SMS compliance? We can help.

Our digital marketing agency offers our marketing expertise alongside a full suite of marketing services to ensure your business grows in a healthy, organic way—email accessibility being just one of our many strengths. 

 

Sources:

  1. Csun.edu. Email Accessibility.  https://www.csun.edu/sites/default/files/email_accessibility.pdf
  2. CDC. Disability Impacts All of Us. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html
  3. CDC. Fast Facts of Common Eye Disorders.  https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/fastfacts.htm
  4. Colour Blind Awareness. Colour Blindness.  https://www.colourblindawareness.org/colour-blindness/
  5. Austin Learning Solutions. Dyslexia Facts and Statistics.  https://austinlearningsolutions.com/blog/38-dyslexia-facts-and-statistics
  6. CPACC. People With Disabilities Control $8 Trillion in Spending. https://sheribyrnehaber.medium.com/people-with-disabilities-control-8-trillion-in-spending-dabd43a87d81
  7. Seyfarth. ADA Title III Litigation: A 2019 Review and Hot Trends for 2020.  https://www.adatitleiii.com/2020/01/ada-title-iii-litigation-a-2019-review-and-hot-trends-for-2020/

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