Email accessibility: The best practices for email marketers

People with disabilities like dyslexia, colour blindness, and astigmatism can find certain content difficult to read, so email accessibility is about creating content that everyone can interpret and engage with. Guy Hanson, VP of customer engagement at Validity, explains why email accessibility should be incorporated as standard best practice by all email marketers and how they can alter their campaigns to create a better subscriber experience for all.

Accessibility is a big topic in the email community right now, and one that senders should be embracing as best practice. Imagine opening an email from your favourite brand and not being able to interpret the content. Perhaps you have a visual impairment and the information isn’t formatted clearly. Or maybe the font is just too small, and even though you try to zoom in, the task is too difficult. People with disabilities like dyslexia, colour blindness, and astigmatism can find certain content difficult to read, meaning increased accessibility is crucial to create inclusive email marketing campaigns.

While senders should be embracing accessibility regardless, laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act and the UK’s Equalities Act of 2010 have also created legal obligations in this space. Accessibility is about more than just avoiding penalties though, in fact many strategies used to create accessible content overlap with established email best practices. Implementing content that all subscribers can access enhances brand reputation, increases ROI, and allows all subscribers to engage.

So, here’s how you can increase your email accessibility today.

Let’s start with the basics

The best place to start is by stepping into your subscribers’ shoes. How do they consume your content and how can you offer them the best experience?

Accessibility comes down to creating content that is easy to interpret, so text size is important. According to the ADA guidelines, font size should be a minimum of 14 points. It’s also a good practice to make text resizable so subscribers can adjust it easily to best suit their needs.

Plenty of white space should also be used to ensure content stands out. White space should then be accompanied by clear email structure including headings, paragraph breaks and tags.

Next is call to action (CTA) text. This should be descriptive and offer an explanation of what will happen when a user clicks through. Overusing hyperlinks should also be avoided. Hyperlinks can make text appear cluttered and lead users to accidentally transfer to other web pages. Importantly, when including video content, make sure it is accompanied by captions so those who are hearing-impaired can follow along too.

Dark mode

Dark mode is a display setting for user interfaces which displays text and light in an alternative format. While the default mode known as light mode displays dark text against a light background, dark mode presents light coloured text, such as white or grey, against a black screen.

Dark mode is gaining popularity amongst many non-impaired users but is also very popular within people with photosensitivity and dyslexia. Senders can use a media query to detect whether users have dark mode enabled and then edit colours and text format to suit.


Colour contrast is crucial to create optimal email accessibility, and senders should aim to include high contrast wherever possible. Those with astigmatism can find specific colours blurry, for example light coloured text against a white background – a colour combination that isn’t fun for anyone to read. When designing an email, senders should consider which colour text creates the greatest contrast against the background as this is going to create the easiest reading experience. Senders can also apply a semi-transparent layer behind the text, which creates contrast for both light and dark backgrounds.

Don’t forget screen readers

It’s important that content makes sense with or without the accompanying images, and this is to ensure those who are visually impaired don’t miss out on key messages.

Senders should also consider how screen readers or smart speakers will interpret specific formats. For example, some tables present content in column format – top to bottom – but screen readers are likely to read all text from left to right. Non-text content, such as emojis and GIFs, should also be avoided as screen readers are likely to struggle with interpretation.

Semantic HTML plays an important role here too. This coding technique clearly identifies to screen readers the different elements in an email such as headings, paragraphs, images and links.

How to introduce accessibility within your content

Accessibility is a complex and evolving area, so it can be difficult to know where to start. Speaking to someone who has been impacted by inaccessible content and understands the frustration can be a good way to gain an alternative perspective.

Try looking in to Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). This is a web accessibility initiative where senders can explore attributes that can be added to HTML elements to increase accessibility. There is also a range of software tools such as Validity’s Everest email success platform, which helps senders understand how their emails will appear across different platforms and predictive eye tracking, which simulates the pattern in which subscribers scan an email. For more accessibility-friendly solutions you can also check-out accelerated mobile pages (AMP).

Email accessibility should be integrated as part of all sender’s quality assurance measures. And while email accessibility is critical, it’s only going to be impactful if extended across all customer touchpoints such as websites and automated call centres.

Email accessibility is about creating content that everyone can understand and engage with. Offering all subscribers a positive email experience is the only option if you want to build and maintain a customer relationship and ensure ongoing brand commitment

Guy Hanson, VP of customer engagement at Validity


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