Commentary

The Friendly Inbox: Making Emails Accessible For Subscribers With Disabilities

Accessibility may not be the first thing neophytes think of when they launch an email marketing campaign. But seasoned email senders are studying it closely, judging by Accessibility in the Inbox, a study from Pathwire conducted by Ascend2.  

Of the marketers polled, 57% have considered factors like color contrast, screen readers and ADA compliance during email production. Another 24% sometimes do so, and 19% do not.  

But this varies by sector: of the B2C marketers surveyed, 64% consider email accessibility, versus 54% of B2B. And 26% of B2C sometimes assess it, as well as 23% of B2B. But 23% of B2B brands do not. 

In addition, 65% of enterprise firms consider accessibility, compared to 42% of small businesses. 

Why is this important? 

“Among every email list are groups who tend to be forgotten and marginalized,” the study states. “This includes subscribers with various disabilities.”

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Indeed, some of these individuals “rely on email to receive life-saving information,” it advises.  

Many elements come into play. One is the need for alternative text for images. The primary purpose of alt text is to help “screen reading software interpret graphics for people with vision impairments or blindness,” the study notes

Then there’s color contrast — lack of it can hinder accessibility. Then there’s the language in subject lines. 

Here’s how brands now support email accessibility: 

  • Writing short, describe subject lines — 56% 
  • Making links and buttons easy to see — 54% 
  • Keeping paragraphs short and simple — 50%
  • Breaking up content with headings/subheadings — 45% 
  • Selecting a simple font — 44%
  • Creating accessible content — 39%
  • Underlining hyperlinks — 39%
  • Leaving plenty of white space — 37%
  • Using contrasting colors — 35%
  • Writing descriptive and unique link test — 33%
  • Avoiding text on images — 30%
  • Avoiding text on images — 30% 
  • Writing descriptive and unique alt text for all images — 25% 
  • Testing for readability with zoomed-in settings — 23%
  • Using accessibility checking tools during design/development — 14%
  • Ensuring appropriately sized tap targets — 12% 
  • Limiting automation — 12% 
  • Implementing/ARIA tags and labels — 41%
  • Using semantic code — 4%
  • None of the above — 8%  

Here are the situations they consider when designing emails for accessibility:

  • Keyboard/Screen Reader interaction — 49% 
  • Low vision — 38%
  • Cognitive load — 21% 
  • Dyslexia — 14%
  • Hearing impairments — 13% 
  • Low motor control — 11%
  • Autism —6% 
  • Other — 6% 
  • Seizures — 5%
  • None of the above — 31% 

What tools are they using? They include:

  • None of these — 39%
  • Microsoft Accessibility Insights — 19% 
  • VoiceOver — 13%
  • Accessible metrics — 11%
  • Accessible — 10% 
  • Other — 8%
  • NVDA — 7%
  • Lighthouse — 7%
  • AccessiBe — 5%
  • TalkBack — 5%
  • Achecker — 5%
  • JAWS — 4%
  • SortSite — 2%
  • WAVE — 2%
  • AXE — 1%

The report is based on two surveys: of 92 email marketing professionals in April 2021, and 87 in June. 

1 comment about "The Friendly Inbox: Making Emails Accessible For Subscribers With Disabilities".
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  1. Todd Lebo from Ascend2, October 19, 2021 at 9:27 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this research. Accessibility is becoming more important and is something for marketers to add to their plans moving forward. 

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