Are Your Emails Accessible?

January 28, 2014

Did you know about 4 percent of the population needs Assistive Technology to access electronic documents? We often consider accessibility when developing web pages. However, if you use images or attachments in your emails, it’s important to ensure those elements are accessible.


When you are including images into an email, use the alt tags to include details about the image that a screen reader can access.

In Outlook, you right-click the image, then select “Format Picture” and then “Alt Text”.


In general, accessible documents can easily be created when working in Word, Excel or PowerPoint.

  • If you use images, fill in the Alt Text to describe the image.
  • If you use tables, ensure the column header rows are specified as such.
  • To turn the documents into PDF, from Word, Excel or PowerPoint, choose the “Save As” function, then under type, choose PDF. This is preferred over printing the document to PDF.
  • Use meaningful hyperlink text to describe the link destination. Avoid throwaway descriptions like click here.
  • Don’t use color alone to convey important information. For example, red text is working and green text is not. People with color vision problems may not see the information.
  • Use built in Formatting styles, so headings, subtitles and paragraph text are properly marked.
  • Use the program’s bulleted list or numbered list to create formatted lists versus adding your own spaces, tabs and symbols.

Learn More

The California Department of Rehabilitation offers a series of easy to read guides that provide instruction on Making Documents Accessible, including Seven Steps to Creating an Accessible Outlook Email.