These guidelines for creating accessible emails are applicable regardless of the email client you use. However, there may be more specific guidance applicable to the specific email client you’re using that may not be reflected in this document.

Best Practices

Avoid pasting in a full URL unless you intend for readers to memorize the URL. Instead, embed your link on text that describes the link destination. Make sure the link text is descriptive and unique; avoid link text like “read more” or “click here”. Learn more about accessible link text best practices.

Provide alternative text for any image content in your email. The method for adding alt text will be different for each email client. However, the principles are the same: provide a description (no longer than necessary) that identifies the meaningful parts of the image. Meaning is often context dependent. If there is text in the image, transcribe it exactly. Learn more about alt text best practices.

Avoid using animated images with rapidly-flashing content, which can trigger seizures in certain individuals.

Make sure your content has sufficient color contrast. Use a color contrast checker, and aim for a “Pass” on the WCAG AA normal text level.

Avoid using color or visual style alone to convey meaning. Screen reader software may not read out that text is bold, italicized, or underlined. Additionally, spacing and punctuation is not consistently announced. You can still use all these visual styling tools, but make sure they’re not the only way to access information. 

Here is an inaccessible example where style is used by itself to convey meaning: 

Sold out dates in italics: 1/20 2/13 3/10 4/5.

Here is an accessible version of that same information:

Available dates:

  • 1/20
  • 2/13

Sold out dates:

  • 3/10
  • 4/5

Make sure that any attachments are accessible. Consult our resources on accessible PDFs, accessible Word documents, and accessible PowerPoints for more details.

Use tables only to present tabular data; avoid using tables for layout purposes. Make sure to provide a table caption and row and/or column headings for your table. The process on how to do so will differ depending on your email client.

Make sure you use “real” lists in your emails by using the list button in the content editor on the email platform.

Example of a real list:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • bananas

Example of a fake list that uses asterisks instead of bullet points:

* red

* yellow

* blue

If your email is long and your email client supports it, use headings to structure and organize your email content. Learn more about using headings for accessibility.

If you are sharing links to software or websites, take a minute to consider whether those services are accessible, and how someone might complete the task or acquire the information if those websites are not accessible. If possible, research the accessibility of the tool.

For example, if you are sending out a link to a polling tool to try to schedule a meeting, consider also mentioning that people can email you their availability directly as well if they are unable to use the tool.

If any of your content is written in a language other than English, you'll need to tag the non-English content so that assistive technology can read it out properly. The process for doing this will depend on your email editor, and may not be possible in certain email platforms. You may need to edit the HTML, if that is an option. Here is a tutorial for tagging foreign language in HTML. The tutorial is written for Salesforce MassMailer, but should be applicable to other HTML-based editors.

Guidance for Specific Email Clients

Consult our guidance on building accessible emails in MassMailer in Salesforce.