How to ensure your emails are AODA compliant
As of January 1, 2021, all large organizations operating in Ontario had to ensure their web content met the accessibility standards established by the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), or face penalties. Your brand’s web team was likely prioritizing compliance through 2020.
But have you looked into the accessibility of your email communications? AODA may be silent on email, but as a key digital channel, it should be treated in the same spirit.
Accessibility is also good for business. With 1 in 5 Canadians reporting disabilities, and the numbers growing as our population ages, inaccessible content could be limiting your marketing reach.
Top 10 Email Accessibility Factors
AODA standards are based on the global standard for web accessibility – WCAG (Worldwide Web Council Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0, Level AA. We’ve interpreted the guidelines for the email channel and offer here our top 10 tips.
1. Use scalable fonts.
Fonts must be resizable up to 200% without loss of content or functionality. Experts recommend a minimum base font size of 14 px for standard text.
2. Minimize use of text in images.
Use text – not images of text – to convey essential information. Screen readers can’t interpret images and we shouldn’t rely only on alt text, which is intended to describe non-text content.
3. Ensure sufficient colour contrast.
When designs show text against a background, the minimum contrast ratio should be 4.5:1, or 3:1 for large-sized text. Use a contrast checker when unsure.
4. Make line height scalable.
Be sure that line height settings accommodate resized text. With the wrong settings, magnified text can overlap and become unreadable.
5. Make links accessible.
Using colour to mark hyperlinks isn’t sufficient for people with visual impairments or colour blindness. Always underline clickable text.
6. Structure information logically.
Recognize that screen readers will scan the email code sequentially, and present all information with the same weight. Help improve that experience by structuring information logically.
7. Use descriptive alt text for images.
Text in alt tags is picked up by screen readers so that visually impaired readers can glean the meaning of an image. Write alt text thoughtfully so that it adds value and context. Keep the tag text to less than 125 characters.
Pro tip: Streamline for screen readers. If an image is for decoration only, code the alt tag as blank (alt= “”). And, avoid repeating information in an alt tag that also appears in the email text.
8. Design for sharp image resolution.
When designing for email, ensure that the creative layout is at least double the size of the email. For example, for an email that is 600 px wide, you should design to 1200 px. When the image is sized down in development you’ll have high quality resolution.
9. Use semantic code.
Include tags to indicate headers and paragraphs so that users of screen readers can better understand the flow of the email.
10. Set presentation roles.
Unless tables are set to role=“presentation”, screen readers will read out the table’s HTML code – a confusing experience for the user. Set the role properly so only the table’s content is read out.
This list is not exhaustive. There are many other ways to improve accessibility once we “get under the hood” of email designs.
As CRM specialists, we spend so much time getting the right content to the right customers. But all that is for naught if our email design or coding pose barriers to basic communication. Accessibility is not just the law – it’s the right thing to do, for customers and the brands trying to reach them.
If you’re unsure whether your emails would meet AODA standards, or need help making them so, please reach out to your Account Lead or email us at email@example.com.