Writing accessible Outlook emails is a lot like writing accessible documents in Word -- there are just a few things Outlook can't do. See below for details:
- Keep it Simple!
- You don't need to do anything special for simple emails that just contain text.
- If you decide to get fancy, use the techniques below:
- Headings - if your email is long enough to have section headings, use "Styles".
- Right-click heading text and pick "Styles" or look at the Styles section of the Format Text menu.
- Pick Heading 1 for the overall heading/title of the email, Heading 2 for main section headings, Heading 3 for sub-section headings, etc.
- Format the heading as you like. Right-click the heading name and pick "Update to Match Selection" to keep formatting you've already set.
- Lists - Use "Bullets" or "Numbering" for lists.
- Don't insert blank lines between list items; right-click and adjust Paragraph "Before/After" spacing if desired.
- Uncheck "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style" if you want space between list items.
- Pictures - Add Alt Text to Pictures (and Shapes, Smart Art, etc.)
- If you include a picture, right-click it, select Edit Alt Text, enter the appropriate alt text.
- Don't describe the picture; enter alt text that communicates what the picture is meant to communicate.
- Outlook doesn't have way to mark pictures as "decorative"; if you have a picture that doesn't communicate anything, enter a very short name or description.
- Positioning - Use "In Line with Text" for Picture Positioning/Wrapping.
- Don't position meaningful Pictures or Text Boxes "Behind text" or "In front of text".
- If you get fancy with positioning, you will need to test the reading order with a screen reader.
- Links - Make sure link text is descriptive.
- Don't use ambiguous terms like "Click Here" (e.g., "For more information, click here.")
- Structure sentences so the link is descriptive (e.g., "For more information, see Outlook Accessibility.")
- Check Accessibility - Use Outlook's Accessibility Checker.
- Click "Check Accessibility" on the Review or Messages menu.
- Review and fix any errors and warnings the accessibility checker finds.
- Be aware that the Accessibility Checker can find many but not all accessibility issues and sometimes makes mistakes.
- Check Color Contrast - Use the free Colour Contrast Analyser to check colors.
- Check that all text/background color combinations "Pass (AA)" (4.5:1 contrast ratio or higher).