How to Create a More Accessible Future

Would you change your marketing tactics if you knew your message wasn’t reaching an audience with $1 trillion in purchasing power?

By the most recent estimates, that’s the annual disposable income of the global disability market. If your website and emails aren’t accessible, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity. But it’s not just the revenue you’re leaving on the table: By neglecting to comply with accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, you could be at risk for brand erosion and potentially even a lawsuit.

Defining the disability market

According to the Census Bureau, roughly one in five Americans lives with a disability that affects vision, hearing, mobility, cognition, or self-care. The CDC puts the number of Americans with disabilities at 61 million; globally, the number is closer to 1.3 billion. That figure includes 253 million people with visual impairments and 466 million who are hearing impaired.

Until recently, the ADA wasn’t interpreted to affect website accessibility; however, courts have now determined that two provisions of the act apply to online content, and by extension, email. One provision, Title III, deals with discrimination in places of public accommodation, which the court has ruled includes a business’s website.

If your organization hasn’t yet committed to web and email accessibility, you’re not alone. Many businesses don’t understand what the law requires or mistakenly believe it doesn’t apply to them. That’s a recipe for disaster. Not only do you risk alienating a substantial chunk of your existing and potential customers, but you also open your business up to user-driven lawsuits if your website and email don’t work with assistive technology.

Inclusivity is the right thing to do on a person-to-person level, but it’s also the best way to stay on the right side of the law.

Proactive steps toward accessibility

Differently-abled people use a variety of assistive technologies to help them read email content. These can include:

  • Magnifiers to enlarge text
  • Screen readers that read out text or convert it to Braille display
  • Eye-tracking tools that let users control their devices with eye movements
  • Joysticks to replace mouse or touchpad controls

Accessible content is content that works equally well for people with regular navigation tools and those who use assistive technologies.

To help businesses comply with the ADA provisions, the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative created accessibility guidelines. Although the guidelines were developed for web content, the principles apply equally to email.

The web content accessibility guidelines, or WCAG, use the acronym POUR to shape your accessibility efforts. Content should be perceivable by sight, touch, and hearing; operable and easy to navigate; understandable both in content and interface; and robust enough to be used by multiple different assistive technologies.

For email content, marketers need to focus on three aspects of their messages: Content, design, and coding.

Accessible email content

Writing accessible emails means giving special attention to every detail. Subject lines, for example, should be clear so those using screen readers will know what to expect when they hear them. CTAs should be specific and give context for users who use tab to skim through their emails. Don’t hide important information in images or infographics where screen readers can’t find it.

Accessible email design

About 8% of men and 0.5% of women are colorblind, so you shouldn’t rely on color to convey important information in your emails. Make sure there’s enough contrast between colors that those with visual impairments can distinguish between them. Avoid text walls and allow adequate space between lines and paragraphs. In addition, ensure you always left align text and use a minimum font size of 16 pixels. WCAG specifies that users should be able to resize text to 200% without losing content or function.

Accessible email coding

Use header tags (h1, h2, h3) to help users understand the content hierarchy and allow screen readers to render the content accurately. Use clear and descriptive alt text, and make sure users can navigate your content with a keyboard. Research the email clients most often used by your customers so you know which accessibility features are supported.

An accessibility advocate

Every business needs an accessibility advocate to highlight the experiences of customers with disabilities. You don’t have to be an expert on accessibility to make a difference, you just need to speak up about including those with different abilities in your campaigns.

Take the first step toward inclusivity by downloading our webinar on email accessibility. You’ll learn practical tips and strategies you can use today to make your email campaigns inclusive and accessible.

Lauren Gentile, VP Executive Creative Director | Digital Solutions | Epsilon