Creating Accessible Email
- Use a concise subject that summarizes the content or purpose of the message. Subject lines longer than 50 characters may not fully display on mobile devices.
- Select an easily readable font style for new email messages and for replying to and forwarding messages.
- Avoid decorative and script fonts whenever possible.
- A text size of 12-point or more is recommended.
- Use left alignment for text.
- If you use an email signature, ensure the signature’s font size and style follow the same best practices as your message.
- Use bulleted/numbered lists to group related items. Use the Outlook list tools and formatting options to create accessible lists instead of manually typing bullets or numbering.
- For longer emails, consider how to organize the message into sensible paragraphs instead of a large block of text.
Emojis and Emoticons
- Use emojis sparingly, and not in place of words or between words in. a sentence.
- Avoid text emoticons. Use plain language or emojis instead.
Use color combinations that are easily readable to low vision users and users who have difficulty differentiating color.
- Avoid using background effects that contain images or patterns that lower the text-to-background contrast.
- Do not use color alone to convey information or instructions.
- If you use a custom theme in Outlook, ensure the theme’s font size and color contrast are accessible.
Images, Attachments, and Links
Note: The following guidance is for images in the body of an email message. For attached image files, visit the attachments section of this page.
- Provide alternative text that concisely describes the purpose or meaning of each image. A long description is often unnecessary.
- Add alternative text (alt text) to all images unless the image is purely decorative.
- If the image contains informational text, it should be included within the alt text.
- If the image is purely decorative, enter ‘decorative image’ in the description field. A Mark as decorative checkbox may be available in some Outlook versions.
Note: Do not use the Generate alt text for me button.
- Position the picture in line whenever possible to ensure the alt text is read at the appropriate time within the document.
- Depending on your Microsoft Outlook version, you may not be able to edit the alt text of an image in your email signature. You can use Microsoft Word to apply alt text, then copy and paste the image into your signature.
Complex Images and Informational Graphics
- For complex images and informational graphics, provide a full text description in the body of the email or in an easy-to-access secondary location (such as a linked webpage).
- For images that also serve as links, a description of the link purpose or destination should be included in the alt text in addition to the description of the image.
- Ensure that the documents and other content you attach to your email messages are accessible and that the files have descriptive names.
- Check all document properties and content for accessibility before attaching them to your email.
- If an image file is included as an attachment, include a text description of the image in the body of your message.
- Ensure the visible link text describes the purpose and/or destination of the link.
- When adding or editing a hyperlink, paste the URL (web page address) into the Address field, and include concise, descriptive text in the Text to Display field.
- A link’s purpose and/or destination should be easily understandable based on the link text.
- Avoid using ambiguous link text such as “click here” or “read more”.
- Avoid using a full web address as link text.
Note: If the email is intended to be printed, add the complete web address (URL) in addition to the descriptive link text.
Layout and structure
Large emails or messages with multiple sections should include headings to make outline of the message easier to understand for everyone.
- Apply an appropriate, nested heading structure that utilizes built-in styles and matches the visual presentation (e.g., Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.). This is critical for longer emails and emails containing multiple sections.
Note: The availability of built-in heading styles tools may vary.
- Due to the lack of semantic table markup within Outlook, users of screen reader technology may not understand the structure or relationships of data within a table. Tables should be avoided whenever possible.
- If a table must be used in an email, include a table alternative or a resource that directs users to an accessible table presentation.
Whitespace and Layout
- Use paragraph spacing options and other tools provided to create the desired layout. Do not use tabs, multiple carriage returns, or the spacebar to create whitespace.
- Use the default HTML format to preserve message content and accessibility.
- Limit the use of decorative graphics and images, and only use animation if absolutely necessary.
- If an email template is used, ensure the template makes thoughtful choices for font size and color contrast. Complex, multi-column email templates can add accessibility barriers.
- Make your Outlook email accessible to people with disabilities.
- Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities.
- Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, or other object.
- Create accessible Office documents (Microsoft – Support).
- Create Accessible Documents (General Services Administration).
- Guide to writing Alternative text – An Alt Decision Tree (W3C).