Accessibility requirements for eDMs: Part 3

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 18 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 third installment of a three-part series — see part one and part two. Check back for a downloadable template resource in the coming week.

Part 3 covers:

Plain text emails

Plain text emails strip out HTML. That’s why it’s a common misconception that simply creating a plain text email alongside your eDM will solve ‘problems’ presented by the need to make your mail outs accessible. However auto-generated plain text emails created in MailChimp are not terribly useful as they often strip out all the hyperlinks.

Certainly plain text emails removes many of the potential barriers but there are many types of vision impairments – forcing users to only use plain text emails is making the choice on how we want them to perceive information. Not every form of vision impairment requires the use of a screen reader to make content accessible, so we shouldn't be making assumptions about users.

While Access iQ™ has a web based, plain text version of the newsletter we still provide as much accessibility as possible on all our eDMs.

There are also some significant benefits in using third party email clients such as MailChimp. One such benefit is that it allows you to measure how people interact with the content you include in your eDMs based on click-throughs and more. The ability to monitor click-throughs allows you to create reports, which is considered essential by marketers.  So ensuring your messages are as accessible as possible through third party services is important.

Tailoring the template to your own organisation

In this Accessibility requirements for eDMs series, we have looked at different components of eDMs and what to consider in order to make it accessible. Whether you’re using a third party email client such as MailChimp or briefing an agency, there are various things to consider in order to ensure the content included in your eDM is accessible to as many people as possible.

In the following week Access iQ™ will provide a downloadable eDM brief template that you can use when creating accessible eDMs.

  • Each organisation is different and has specific requirements. As such some components of your eDM template will have requirements specific to your organisation. This may include:
  • Instructions on audience
  • Use of eDM
  • Creative strategy
  • Use of existing brand assets
  • Timelines

All of this information can be included in the brief as the 'top and tail'. However it is important to ensure that your eDM content is accessible. That means understanding how to use appropriate heading structure, using the correct alternative text for images and how to create accessible link text.

More information about creating accessible content can be found in The ultimate accessible content checklist for web professionals.