5 Ways to Make Emails More Accessible


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Creating accessible content allows your message to reach as broad of an audience as possible. As a government communicator, it is especially vital that your messages reach all of your subscribers.

Online content, such as email and bulletins, is typically measured by the Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG). These standards require that online content be

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Creating online content that conforms to these standards is the best strategy to meet or exceed the accessibility requirements of Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or other international regulations.

While we recommend familiarizing yourself with the full set of WCAG standards, here are five ways to make your content more accessible.

1. Check for Readability

When crafting your communications, you should always write clearly and concisely. This is especially important for email, which is often read quickly or skimmed. Short sentences, written at or below an eighth-grade reading level are generally readable by most people. You can take any text and run it through a readability check to check its reading level.

How your content appears to users, and machines, is another large portion of accessible content. Some of the major considerations are:

2. Check Color Contrast

Text should always be perceivable on its background. WCAG defines perceivable as a contrast ration of at least 3:1. Black text on a white background has a ratio of 21:1. You can check the contrast between any two colors here.

3. Use Hierarchy in Headings

You can also make your content clear and easily digestible by creating a logical reading order, which is often achieved through headings. The govDelivery Advanced Bulletin Editor includes three heading sizes, which should be used in order: e.g. H3 should follow H2, which follows H1. Heading sizes should not be skipped.

4. Include Alt Attributes

Any image you use should always include alternative text describing the image. If someone is using a screen reader to access your content, they can interact with and understand the image when you use alternative text.

5. Identify Table Headers

For an assistive device to read information in a data tables, you must identify the row and column headers for the table.

In a rush? Use this checklist below to make sure your bulletins are accessible.

  • Is my copy clear and concise? (Check with
  • Does my text and background meet the minimum 3:1 contrast ratio? (Check with
  • Are text headings (H1, H2, etc.) arranged in a logical reading order?
  • Am I conveying any information with only color? (e.g. a pie chart without labels)
  • Do all my included images have alternative text included?
  • Would my bulletin benefit from a landing page, where I can share more information than a single email?
  • Have I sent myself a test bulletin and viewed the message in various email clients, browsers, and mobile devices?

Bringing it All Together

When you hit send on a message, you expect it to be delivered. But how do you know if your message is accessible to everyone that receives it? By making your content as accessible as possible, you’re ensuring everyone not only gets the message, but can read it, listen to it, and understand it.

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