Accessibility requirements for eDMs: Part 2

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 12 Jun 2013
  • Access: Free

Quick facts

Many people believe web accessibility begins and ends with their organisation’s website. In reality, it should encompass all communications.  This includes your Word templates, your PDF's and your eDMs.

One of the things Access iQ™ has struggled with is finding an agency capable of delivering an accessible electronic direct mail (eDM) template in MailChimp, a third party email marketing service. So we came up with our own eDM template brief to help with the process.

This article outlines the different components of eDMs and provides you with the information to understand how each component needs to be accessible.

You'll want to remove any reference to Access iQ™ and occasionally we've left our particular information in the brief as examples. The usefulness of this brief also relies on your ability to test and verify the outputs of the agency because more than likely they will not be able to do it.

This guide is intended to be comprehensive rather than exhaustive.  Is there anything we've missed or we can add to improve it?  Leave a comment or get in touch.

This is the second installment of a three-part series — check back for part one and part three in the coming weeks.

Part 2 covers:
  • Additional requirements
    • Providing an alternative access point

    • Call-to-action design elements

    • Forwarding

    • Plain accessible version

    • Size

    • Social media




Additional requirements

The following are additional eDM requirements that we included as part of our standard eDM briefing process. You may have to adjust them to suit specific organisation requirements, however these provide examples of information that can be included in your own eDM brief.

Providing an alternative access point

This requirement is based on an internal policy to provide a web based plain text version of our newsletter.

A link must be included at the top of any mail out that provides an alternative location to view the mail out online and in a plain text format.

Call-to-action design elements

  • All call-to-action elements must be styled using text so they can be edited.
  • Text within call-to-action elements must be black and use the standard Arial font.
  • No images of text are to be used when developing a call-to-action element within the template, as this particular section of the template has known design issues (refer to ‘Design’ for additional information).

Note: Additional design elements will be provided for each individual brief.


Default MailChimp code must be included in at least one location within any template developed to allow a mail out to be forwarded through MailChimp.

Plain accessible version

All information placed into the WYSIWYG editor should be able to be directly transferred into a plain text, accessible version of the mail out (using MailChimp functionality) without distortion.


The total width of the template must not exceed 600 pixels, in keeping with standard MailChimp dimensions.

Social media

Include links to social media channels using the social media icons supplied by Access iQ™.

The following table includes URL and alternative text to be used for each social media icon (image).

Alt text to be used for each social media icon (image).
Social media URL Alt text
Facebook Insert URL Like us on Facebook
LinkedIn Insert URL Connect with us on LinkedIn
Twitter Insert URL Follow us on Twitter
RSS feed Insert URL Subscribe to our RSS feed

Note: Our Access iQ™ social media icons are accessible and were specifically designed for us. The icons complied with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, which meant that the colour contrast requirements of different states such as ‘focus’, ‘active’ and ‘hover’ were all accessible. You might like to do the same.

Accessible eDM Checklist

We included the checklist below as part of our eDM brief. The checklist summarises all the accessibility requirements of your eDM and provides a reference point for the design agency you may be briefing.

  • All images have a text alternative
  • Decorative images have a blank alt attribute
  • Images of text are not used unless pre-approved by Access iQ™
  • All link text is meaningful and describes where the link will take the user
  • Exposed URLs are not used as link text
  • Font size is defined in relative units using 'em' or percentage
  • Body copy (paragraph text) uses the default font Arial 12pt
  • The template can be zoomed in to 200% without affecting the design
  • MailChimp design issues have been avoided where possible/accessible workarounds used
  • Heading structure has been correctly marked up using HTML heading elements
  • The language of the template has been defined as English using the lang attribute
  • Tables do not include any semantic markup unless it’s for a table with data
  • Information in a table maintains a logical order when voiced by a screen reader
  • There is only one table in the template (subject to the constraints of MailChimp)
  • Semantic markup follows the guidelines outlined in this brief
  • All text and its background meets colour contrast requirements
  • There is a link at the top of the template to view the mail out online
  • All call-to-action elements are styled using text and can be edited
  • Call-to-action elements do not contain images of text
  • Text within call-to-action elements is black and uses the standard Arial font
  • Default MailChimp code is included to enable the mail out to be forwarded
  • All information in the WYSIWYG editor can be directly transferred into a plain, accessible version of the mail out (using MailChimp) without distortion
  • The total width of the template does not exceed 600 pixels
  • Links to social media channels have been included using supplied icons and information