Email Accessibility: Equal Access for All

email accessibility cover image

Email accessibility, in a nutshell, is ensuring everyone can read and understand your email, regardless of any impairments they may have.

With the aid of technology, more and more people are able to live fulfilling lives. Modern innovation plays a pivotal role in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by providing innovative solutions and tools that empower independence, accessibility, and inclusion.

From screen readers and speech recognition software to mobility aids and communication devices, technology offers a wide range of assistive technologies tailored to diverse needs. Technology continues to evolve and opens new avenues for accessibility in digital communication; as email professionals, it’s time we aided this movement by doing our bit.

Email marketing is rapidly evolving, and there are market trends that email professionals must stay up-to-date with — and making emails more accessible is a frontrunner. 

By focusing on email accessibility, we can create inclusivity and provide equal access to information. This guide breaks down the challenges faced by differently-abled people and what we can do to make their email experience better.

The Importance of Inclusive Communication

Accessibility Icon
Universal Accessibility Icon. Source

Before we get into email accessibility, let’s talk about the steps taken to ensure the Internet is less troublesome for users with disabilities. Web accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites and apps that can be used and accessed by people with communicational difficulties.

Web accessibility encompasses various disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. 

Considerations in web accessibility include these points:

  • Information and user interface components must be presented in ways that users can perceive. This includes providing text alternatives for non-text content such as images, videos, and audio files.
  • Users should be able to navigate and interact with the website using various input methods, including keyboard navigation, mouse, and touch gestures. All functionality should be accessible via keyboard alone, without relying on a mouse.
  • The website should be designed in a way that is easy to understand and navigate.
  • The website should be compatible with a wide range of assistive technologies and devices, including screen readers, magnifiers, voice recognition software, and alternative input devices. It should also be built using standards-compliant code that is resilient to changes and updates in technology.

To achieve web accessibility, web developers and designers adhere to established guidelines and standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG provides recommendations for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities, organized around the principles mentioned above.

Implementing web accessibility not only benefits users with disabilities but also enhances the overall user experience for all users, improves search engine optimization (SEO), and can even reduce legal risks associated with accessibility lawsuits.

To summarize — web accessibility is about making the web usable and accessible to everyone.

What is Email Accessibility?

The issues mentioned above also extend to the inbox, as do the solutions.

Email accessibility is the practice of ensuring emails are usable and understandable by people with disabilities. This includes individuals who may use screen readers, have low vision, color blindness, mobility impairments, or other disabilities that affect how they interact with digital content.

Addressing these challenges requires us to think beyond the shortcomings of the human body. A significant portion of the global population faces issues with data connections and modern devices, presenting additional hurdles. 

Even in prosperous nations, sluggish data connections and outdated devices can result in subpar experiences for individuals dependent on the internet and email. Email accessibility serves as our approach to tackling all these obstacles. 

What the Statistics Say

By creating accessible emails, you’re catering to subscribers facing these obstacles:

  1. Vision impairment,
  2. Speech impairment,
  3. Hearing impairment,
  4. Physical issues,
  5. Neurological issues,
  6. Cognitive challenges.

The numbers indicate it’s a large number of people who live with disabilities. According to the WHO, almost 2.2 billion people across the world have vision impairment. The statistics of the hearing-impaired are equally concerning — WHO puts it at 5% of the world’s population. The number of people living with physical challenges also number in the millions

Now, let’s explore what kind of issues users face when interacting with emails that are not accessible.

Common Challenges Faced by Lack of Accessibility in Emails

First, we will address issues faced by the differently-abled when they have to take on emails. Lack of accessibility in emails can pose several challenges for users with disabilities, which hinder their ability to perceive, understand, and interact with email content effectively

Differently-abled people commonly experience these situations when accessing emails:

  1. When images lack alternative text (alt text) or have inadequate descriptions, users who rely on screen readers miss out on crucial information conveyed through visuals. 
  2. Emails with overly complex layouts or improper semantic structure can be challenging to navigate for users with disabilities. Screen readers may encounter difficulties in understanding the hierarchy of content, finding relevant information, or skipping repetitive content.
  3. Links and buttons without descriptive labels or proper focus states can be problematic for users who rely on keyboard navigation or screen readers. Non-descriptive link text such as “click here” provides little context about the link’s destination, making it challenging for users to determine its relevance.
  4. Insufficient color contrast between text and background elements can make content difficult to read for users with low vision or color blindness. 
  5. Incompatible email designs may cause assistive technologies to misinterpret content or render it inaccessible to users.
  6. Emails containing complex forms or tables that lack proper markup or structure can be challenging for users with disabilities to interact with effectively.
  7. Emails that lack plain text versions or provide inaccessible alternatives limit access for users who require simplified formats.

As you can see, it’s a pretty long list. Next, let’s learn more about the tools that people with impairments use to access the web and email — this will help us better understand why accessibility is needed, and how to do it right.

Tools Used by the Differently-Abled to Access the Internet and Emails

Braille Screen Reader
Braille Screen Reader. Source

There are several popular tools and assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to browse the Internet and access email. These tools are designed to accommodate a wide range of needs.

These are the more well-known types:

  1. Screen readers: Screen readers are software programs that convert digital text into synthesized speech or braille output.

    Popular screen readers include:
  • NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access): A free and open-source screen reader for Windows.
  • JAWS (Job Access With Speech): A widely used commercial screen reader for Windows.
  • Talkback: This is a screen reader built into Android Accessibility Suite and runs on Android devices.
  • VoiceOver: Built-in screen reader software on macOS and iOS devices.
  1. Screen magnifiers: Screen magnifiers enlarge on-screen content, making it easier for users with low vision to read text and view images.
  2. Braille displays: Braille displays are tactile devices that convert digital text into braille output, allowing users who are visually or hearing-impaired to read and navigate content on computers and mobile devices.
  3. Speech software: There is software available that enables users to control their computers and dictate text using voice commands. 
  4. Keyboard navigation tools: Keyboard navigation tools allow users to navigate websites and email interfaces using keyboard shortcuts and commands.
  5. Captioning services: Captioning and subtitling services provide text-based alternatives for audio and video content, making it accessible to users who are hard of hearing. 
  6. Text-to-speech extensions: Text-to-speech extensions and browser plugins read aloud text content on web pages.
  7. Email platforms: Mailbox providers like Gmail and Outlook feature built-in accessibility features and support for assistive technologies, making it easier for users with disabilities to compose, send, and manage email messages. 

These tools are widely used and are constantly adapting to newer technologies and formats on the internet.

The Impact of Email Accessibility on User Experience

By prioritizing accessibility in email design, you can create inclusive email experiences that benefit all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Email accessibility significantly improves the user experience for people by addressing barriers and challenges.

The 7 ways in which accessibility makes emails better for people with disabilities are:

  1. By adhering to accessibility guidelines and best practices, you can make your content available to a wider audience, including users who rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, or braille displays.
  2. Accessibility includes using plain language, descriptive headings, and concise text to convey information effectively, making it easier for users with cognitive disabilities or language barriers to understand the content.
  3. Accessibility promotes efficient navigation and interaction within email interfaces. By incorporating keyboard shortcuts, logical tab order, and accessible navigation links, email creators enable users with mobility impairments or dexterity limitations to navigate through email content with ease.
  4. Accessible emails provide alternative formats for multimedia content such as images, videos, and audio files. This provides critical context.
  5. Including proper HTML markup, semantic structure, and scalable fonts ensures email content remains accessible and legible across different devices and screen sizes, plus it enhances usability and readability.
  6. Accessibility ensures compatibility with assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to access email content.
  7. Accessibility promotes compliance with established accessibility standards and guidelines, such as the WCAG. By following these standards, you can create accessible email content that meets the needs of users with disabilities and aligns with legal requirements and industry best practices.

There’s no doubt about it: with a little bit of effort on our part, we can use email accessibility to greatly improve quality of life for people with disabilities.

The Benefits of Accessibility Go Beyond Helping the Differently-Abled

Accessibility in emails doesn’t just benefit people with disabilities; it also enhances the overall user experience and inclusivity for everyone.

By implementing accessibility, you also rack up these additional points for your email marketing operation:

Improved user experienceAccessible emails often feature clear, well-structured layouts and content, making them easier to read and navigate for all users.
CompatibilityAccessible emails are designed to be compatible with a wide range of devices, email clients, and platforms.
Faster loading timesAccessible emails are often optimized for performance and efficiency, resulting in faster loading times and improved responsiveness.
Clear and concise communicationEmails that are easy to understand and navigate help users quickly find the information they need, leading to more effective communication and engagement.
Enhanced SEOAccessible emails often feature well-structured content with descriptive headings, links, and alt text, which can improve search engine optimization (SEO).
Inclusive design principlesAccessibility encourages inclusive design principles that prioritize the needs and preferences of diverse user groups.
Legal complianceAdhering to accessibility guidelines helps organizations comply with legal requirements and mitigate the risk of accessibility-related lawsuits or complaints.
Additional benefits of email accessibility

Accessibility ensures users can access and interact with email content seamlessly, regardless of the device or platform they are using.

How Email Accessibility is Equally Important for Marketers

Clearly, accessibility benefits society and a marginalized group of people. But that’s not all — accessibility is also beneficial for email marketers. Beyond the positive feelings and sense of social responsibility, adhering to accessibility standards also has a positive effect on your marketing efforts. 

According to the CDC, more than 1 in 4 people in the US are living with a disability, and 4.8% of all Americans are visually impaired. This is a population of serious businesses you should not ignore. 

By making your emails more accessible, you can experience these benefits:

  1. Making your design accessible improves usability for everyone in your email list.
  2. Accessibility in emails opens doors to a wider audience for your messages.
  3. The number of non-disabled users using voice to interact with emails is growing.
  4. Accessible emails keep readers engaged and more likely to stick around.
  5. By following accessibility guidelines, you can minimize legal risks.
  6. Setting yourself apart from competitors is easier with accessible email design.
  7. Accessibility boosts your brand’s image and reputation, showing you care about all your readers.

As email marketing is all about fine-tuning everything, accessibility is an area that needs your urgent attention. Besides the above benefits, you are also legally obligated to make your emails accessible; let’s explore that in the next section.

Legal Requirements and Guidelines for Email Accessibility

Legal requirements and guidelines for email accessibility vary depending on the jurisdiction and applicable laws. However, several key international standards and guidelines provide valuable guidance for ensuring accessibility, so let’s review the biggest names.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

While the ADA primarily focuses on physical accessibility, it also applies to digital content, including websites and online communications such as emails. The ADA requires businesses and organizations to confirm that their digital content, including email communications, is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG (currently at version 2.2) provides a set of guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. While WCAG primarily focuses on web content, its principles and guidelines can be applied to email design and development. WCAG outlines criteria for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust content, with specific success criteria at three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.

European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a legislative initiative by the European Union (EU) aimed at promoting the accessibility of products and services for people with disabilities. The primary objective of the European Accessibility Act is to ensure a wide range of products and services, including digital services, are accessible to people with disabilities across the EU member states. The act covers various sectors, including information and communication technology (ICT), transportation, banking, and e-commerce.

The EAA came into effect in April 2019 but all participating countries have a deadline of June 2025 to implement the laws.

European Union (EU) Web Accessibility Directive

The EU Web Accessibility Directive requires public sector websites and mobile applications to comply with specific accessibility standards, including those outlined in WCAG 2.2 at the AA level. While the directive primarily targets public sector digital services, it underscores the importance of accessibility and may influence accessibility practices in the private sector as well.

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)

ARIA is a set of specifications developed by the W3C that enhances the accessibility of dynamic web content and web applications. While ARIA is primarily focused on web applications, its principles can be applied to email development to enhance accessibility for users with disabilities.

Legal requirements and guidelines for email accessibility are shaped by international standards and regulations, including the ADA, WCAG, EAA, ARIA, and EU Web Accessibility Directive. Adhering to these standards and guidelines helps ensure email communications are accessible to individuals with disabilities and you are in the clear, from a legal standpoint.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

W3C icon
W3C icon. Source

WCAG paved the way for accessibility when it was released in 1999 (version 1.0) and has since evolved significantly, as it adapts to the modern needs of people with impairments.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines follow four main principles which dictate that all web and email content should be:

CharacteristicWhat it means
PerceivableInformation and user interface elements need to be accessible to users in formats they can understand. This entails ensuring users can perceive the information being displayed; it should not be invisible or inaccessible to any of their senses.
OperableUser interface elements and navigation should be functional. This implies users should be capable of operating the interface; it shouldn’t demand interactions beyond their abilities.
UnderstandableInformation and user interface functionality should be understandable. This principle requires that users can grasp both the information presented and how the user interface operates, so neither the content nor the operation should be overly complex to them.
RobustThe content needs to be resilient enough to be interpreted consistently by various user agents, including assistive technologies. This ensures users can access the content as technologies progress
The WCAG Principles

WCAG primarily targets:

  • Web content devs (such as page authors and site designers),
  • Developers of web authoring tools,
  • Web accessibility evaluation tool developers,
  • Those seeking or requiring a standard for web accessibility (including mobile accessibility).

Right! Now let’s study how to actually implement these guidelines in your emails.

How Developers and Marketers Can Follow WCAG 2.2 Guidelines

This table offers different suggestions to optimize content for each of the WCAG principles:

PrincipleMethods of implementation
PerceivableOffer textual descriptions for non-textual content.Include captions and alternative options for images/videos.Develop content that retains its meaning when presented in various formats, including with assistive technologies.Improve accessibility for users by enhancing the visibility and audibility of content.
OperableVerify that all features are accessible via keyboard input.Allow users sufficient time to read/interact with content.Avoid content that may trigger seizures or physical responses.Simplify user navigation and content discovery.Enhance usability for other input methods (besides the keyboard).
UnderstandableEnsure text is legible and comprehensible.Confirm that content behaves predictably in appearance and functionality.Assist users in preventing and rectifying errors.
RobustOptimize compatibility with both present and upcoming user tools.
WCAG: Actionable steps

With these simple steps, you can transform your emails into far more accessible content. Let’s now get into the meat of the matter.

How to Make Your Emails Accessible

Making your emails accessible involves several key steps. While we will expand on the more critical steps further below, this list summarizes the steps you must take to support accessible emails.

Implement accessibility in your email communications with the following guidelines:

  • Use semantic HTML code: Ensure your email is structured using semantic HTML elements such as headings, paragraphs, lists, and links.
  • Use alt text: Include descriptive alt text for all images and graphics in your email. 
  • Color contrast is important: Choose colors with sufficient contrast between text and background to ensure readability for users with low vision or color blindness.
  • Clear language: Write clear, concise, and easy-to-understand content in your emails. Avoid using complex language or jargon that may be difficult for certain users to understand.
  • Create accessible links/buttons: Confirm that links are descriptive and meaningful when read out of context. Instead of using generic phrases like “click here,” use descriptive text that indicates the destination of the link.
  • Support keyboard operability: Make sure all interactive elements in your email, such as links and buttons, are accessible via keyboard navigation.
  • Test with assistive technologies: Test your emails with screen readers and other assistive technologies to ensure compatibility and accessibility. 
  • Format for mobile: Design your emails with mobile accessibility in mind. Ensure your emails are responsive and adapt well to different screen sizes and orientations.
  • Provide a text-only version: Provide a text-only version of your email as an alternative for users with difficulty accessing the HTML version.

The most critical step in email accessibility is design; your choices can greatly improve user experience for a user with disabilities. It’s a great starting point for more accessible emails!

Designing Accessible Emails

All-image emails in email marketing isn’t a great idea for a few reasons. 

First off, all-image emails are terrible for accessibility, especially for subscribers using screen readers. Plus, certain email clients might think they’re spam and send them to the junk folder. Then, without text, it’s tough to track how people interact with the email, like clicks and opens. 

They can also look weird on phones and load slowly, making folks less likely to engage. They don’t help with email SEO either, because search engines can’t read images. Ultimately, they might not effectively communicate your message which could lead to more unsubscribes and complaints. Mixing images with text is a better bet for most email marketing efforts.

Adding ‘Alt Text’ to Make Emails More Accessible 

This is the simplest step you can take towards accessibility — adding alt text to the images in your email. Alt text, short for alternative text, plays a crucial role in enhancing accessibility in emails by providing descriptive text descriptions for images.

Alt text helps with accessibility in the following ways:

  • Screen reader support: Alt text is read aloud by screen reader software, enabling users with visual impairments to understand the content and context of images within your emails. This ensures visually impaired users have access to the same information as sighted users.
  • Content comprehension: Alt text provides important context and information about images that may not be immediately apparent from the surrounding text. It helps users understand the purpose, meaning, and relevance of images within the email content.
  • Improved navigation: For users who have images deactivated in their email client or who prefer text-only email formats, alt text ensures they can navigate through the email effectively and understand the content without missing critical information conveyed through images.

Let’s now explore additional steps to design better, more accessible emails.

Accessibility: Visual Guidelines

Implementing these visual guidelines can make your emails more accessible:

  1. Visual hierarchy is important: Both visual impairments and situational factors, such as time constraints or distractions, can impede individuals from reading and comprehending long passages of text. Establishing hierarchy, by using visual distinctions to highlight significance, aids these users in swiftly decoding email content.
  2. Use real text instead of images: Real text ensures email content is accessible to all recipients, including those using screen readers or assistive technologies. Text-based content can be read aloud by screen readers, allowing users with visual impairments to access the information effectively.
  3. Contrast aids accessibility: Using contrast effectively in emails enhances accessibility by ensuring text and images stand out clearly against their background. Verify if the text contrasts well with the background color, making it easy to read.
  4. Use left-justified text: Understanding text layout relies heavily on visual cues, particularly the beginning of a new line, which serves as a focal point for navigating through an email. Left-aligned text proves to be one of the most effective methods for maintaining readability.
  5. Use font sizes efficiently: Verify if your text is large enough for people to easily read, especially on smartphones. Never go lower than 14px, for example.
  6. Test usability: To ensure better usability with links and buttons in emails, focus on clear labeling with concise text, ample size and spacing for easy clicking, contrasting colors for visibility, keyboard accessibility for navigation, clear focus states for user feedback, inclusion of “skip navigation” links, and descriptive alt text for images.

With the listed accessibility considerations in email design practices, designers can create more inclusive and user-friendly marketing emails.

Semantic HTML Code Improves Accessibility

Semantic HTML code improves accessibility in emails by providing structure and meaning to the content. This makes it easier for recipients, including those using assistive technologies, to understand and interact with the email content. For example, headings establish a clear structure and hierarchy, whereas paragraphs, lists, and navigation sections help identify different types of content within the email.

You can vastly improve accessibility by using these HTML tags:

HTML ElementDescription
<h1> to <h6>Heading tags define the hierarchy of headings in your email content. Use them to provide structure and organization.
<p>The paragraph tag indicates a block of text, allowing screen readers to interpret and present content coherently.
<ul>The unordered list tag defines a list of items with no specific order, such as bullet points. It helps break content into manageable chunks.
<ol>The ordered list tag defines a list of items with a specific order, such as numbered lists, and helps users understand sequence and importance.
<nav>The navigation tag helps users locate and access different sections of your email content by identifying navigation links within your email.
<main>The main tag indicates the main content area of your email. It provides a clear focus for users and assists with navigation.
<header>The header tag defines introductory content, such as branding or titles, at the beginning of your email. It sets the context for your message.
<footer>The footer tag defines content at the end of your email, such as contact information or legal disclaimers. It helps users find additional information.
HTML Tags for Emails: Explained

At Campaign Refinery, we’ve ensured our HTML editor is as snappy as the drag-and-drop editor, and our templates are also designed to perform consistently across devices and clients. But that’s not all.

Campaign Refinery: Complete Control

At Campaign Refinery, we didn’t bombard our clients with features they would never use. Instead, we asked ourselves (and other industry veterans) — what does an email professional really want? And we created Campaign Refinery to be the perfect answer

Here’s why:

  • At Campaign Refinery, our number one focus is deliverability. We offer the best inboxing rates in the email business, and it’s a team effort. We work closely with our clients, monitor our sender reputation constantly, and implement best practices to ensure our messages head straight to the inbox.
  • We simplified automation to the point that you can design complex flows while tapping away on an iPad.
  • With our Gamification feature, we’ve recorded stellar engagement rates — open rates of 76.37% and a 0.0% complaint rate. The subscribers are loving it.
  • Cleaning email lists is a burden — so we automated it. Our list-cleaning feature scans your email list in the background, removing problematic email addresses that would otherwise wreck your sender score. It works beautifully!
  • We pay attention to every single customer. We have a process to shortlist email marketers and we choose customers that we would enjoy working with.
  • We have a credit system where you only pay for the emails you send. No more shady fees or unnecessary charges for contacts — this is what real transparency looks like

Apply to be a Campaign Refinery customer today. We promise you’ll love it.

Keyboard Accessibility is Critical

Keyboard accessibility in email refers to the ability of email content and interactive elements to be navigated and interacted with using only keyboard inputs, without relying on a mouse or other pointing device. Ensuring keyboard accessibility is crucial for users who rely on keyboard navigation due to various impairments, as well as for users who prefer keyboard shortcuts for efficiency.

If you’re looking to make your emails more keyboard-friendly, follow these guidelines: 

  1. Tab key navigation: Users should be able to navigate through the email content and interactive elements (such as links, buttons, and form fields) by using the Tab key. 
  2. Focus styles: Interactive elements that receive keyboard focus should have clearly visible focus styles, such as outlines or background color changes, to indicate which element is currently focused. 
  3. Skip navigation: Including “skip navigation” links at the beginning of emails allows users to bypass repetitive content, such as headers or navigation menus, and jump directly to the main content of the email. This is particularly useful for users who navigate using screen readers or keyboard shortcuts.
  4. Interactive elements: Users should be able to activate interactive elements, such as links and buttons, using the Enter key after they receive focus. Additionally, form fields should be accessible and operable via keyboard inputs.
  5. Logical focus: The order in which interactive elements receive keyboard focus should follow a logical sequence that reflects the natural reading and interaction flow of the email content. This ensures users can navigate through the email efficiently and predictably.

If you want to verify if your emails are accessible, you can test features using keyboard-only navigation and screen reader tools to identify and address any accessibility issues.

Mobile Formatting Matters, too

Mobile responsive design ensures emails are displayed correctly and legibly on various mobile devices with different screen sizes and resolutions. Responsive design adapts the layout and content of emails to fit smaller screens, making them more accessible and easier to read for mobile users.

Here’s why you should be paying more attention to your mobile formatting:

  • Mobile users primarily interact with emails using touchscreen gestures, such as tapping and swiping. Mobile formatting optimizes the size and spacing of interactive elements like links and buttons, making them easier to tap and navigate with fingers. This enhances accessibility for users with dexterity impairments or mobility issues.
  • We covered this in our design section, but formatting content for smartphones improves the visual clarity and readability of emails on smaller screens. By prioritizing concise and scannable content, mobile-friendly emails ensure important information is presented prominently and can be quickly understood by users with cognitive impairments.
  • Focusing on mobile responsiveness optimizes email content for faster loading times and improved performance on mobile devices. By minimizing file sizes, reducing unnecessary elements, and optimizing images, mobile-friendly emails load quickly and efficiently, you enhance user experience for mobile users with slower internet connections or limited data plans.
  • Mobile formatting ensures compatibility with mobile assistive technologies, such as screen readers and magnification tools, commonly used by users with visual impairments or other disabilities. 
  • Mobile formatting often aligns with accessibility standards and guidelines, such as the WCAG. By adhering to these standards, you can ensure your content complies with legal requirements for digital accessibility.

Smartphone users accounted for 61.9% of all email opens in 2019; you can bet the number is much higher now!

Text-Only Emails are Great for Accessibility

While HTML-rich emails can be visually appealing and interactive, plain text emails remain a preferred format for ensuring accessibility and inclusivity in email communications.

The benefits of text-only emails include:

  1. Screen reader compatibility: Text-only emails are compatible with screen reader software used by individuals with visual impairments. Screen readers can easily interpret and vocalize the text content of emails, making them accessible to users who rely on auditory cues to navigate digital content.
  2. Simplified layout: Text-only emails typically have a simpler layout compared to HTML-rich emails with images, graphics, and complex formatting.
  3. Reduced load times: Text-only emails have smaller file sizes and load quicker compared to HTML-rich emails with embedded images and multimedia content.
  4. Universal compatibility: Text-only emails are universally compatible with a wide range of email clients and devices, including older or less sophisticated email applications that may not support HTML formatting or display images properly.
  5. Minimal rendering issues: HTML-heavy emails with complex formatting and embedded media may encounter rendering issues or display inconsistencies across different email clients and devices. Text-only emails eliminate these potential accessibility barriers, ensuring consistent and reliable content delivery to all recipients.
  6. Focus on content: By removing visual distractions and unnecessary embellishments, text-only emails prioritize the communication of the message itself. This allows users to focus on the content of the email without being distracted by irrelevant or decorative elements.

Do you know the best feature of text-only emails, though? Plain text emails often enjoy superior deliverability and better open rates and click-through rates!

Best Practices for Writing Accessible Email Content

We’ve covered everything you need to know to get started on email accessibility, but hang on to this list of pointers to guide you along the way.

Using the 11 following best practices, you can nail accessible emails:

  1. Ensure every important image in an email is accompanied by descriptive alt text.
  2. Use hierarchy to enhance content organization and navigation.
  3. Avoid embedding important information within graphics; always use live text.
  4. Use good color contrast, aiming for a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 between text and background.
  5. Implement semantic HTML code.
  6. Think beyond using color as the sole means of conveying meaning in email design.
  7. Opt for readable fonts and appropriate font sizes.
  8. Write clear and concise copy.
  9. Highlight buttons and links clearly with live text.
  10. Refer to guidelines like WCAG for better implementation.
  11. Minimize the use of excessive or distracting graphics or animations.

By sticking to these steps, you can ensure your emails are accessible to all users, regardless of their disabilities. Plus there are tools to help you!

Email Accessibility Examples

If you’re looking for inspiration to create your own accessible emails, here are examples that get it right.

  1. Grain

This email from Grain is text-heavy and uses descriptive links and minimal images. The design is clean and flows logically. 

Grain Moment Accesible Email
Grain Moment Accesible Email
  1. Camo

Here’s another great example of an accessible email. This email uses a bit of design at the top but doesn’t hide any critical information in graphics. The content is clean and gets right down to business. Plus it will display perfectly on a smartphone screen!

Camo Reincubate Accessible Email
Camo Reincubate Accessible Email
  1. Cameo App

We like the descriptive links in this announcement email from Cameo, which uses a text-heavy email and minimal images, which would be greatly appreciated by users with disabilities.

Cameo Accessible Email
Cameo Accessible Email

The goal isn’t just about being text-heavy; you can continue to create colorful, graphic emails, as long as you ensure accessibility isn’t hampered for recipients with impairments! 

Accessibility Testing Tools

If you’re looking for an email accessibility checker, there are many tools available online that can do this. Besides such testing tools, you also have online tools that can verify the code and design choices you make.

From HTML testers to color guides, this table has different tools to test email accessibility:

Microsoft Accessibility Insights tool that helps developers find and fix accessibility issues in web apps and sites.
Accessible Email your code to optimize it for email accessibility.
Accessible Colors WCAG guidelines to test your color choices.
Coblis your images for accessibility for color blindness.
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool your HTML emails for accessibility issues.
Popular email accessibility tools

You can also use email preview tools to check how your emails render on different devices. 

Access the Inbox

Supporting accessibility will win over your subscribers and make your email campaigns more effective, as users will have a consistent and clear experience with your email messages. But landing in the inbox is one of the biggest challenges email marketers face today; at Campaign Refinery, we have the best inboxing rates in the business, so we know how challenging it can be to achieve that.

To have the best deliverability, you must be a master of all — you must be technically sound, you should know the methods used by email veterans, you should be aware of the intricacies of list management, and you should know the tricks to stay out of spam traps and blacklists. Should take you about 10 years to learn it all.

Or you could skip the learning curve and absorb everything you need to know about mastering deliverability, with The Inbox Formula. In a sea of ebooks that share edgy, spammy, and useless content, this guidebook stands out. It offers nothing but actionable steps and tried and tested methods, plus gives you industry insight — all for FREE. Just like the best things in life!

If you’d like a sneak preview of how Campaign Refinery clients do email, download The Inbox Formula today!

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