Accessible communication benefits your audience by ensuring that the information clear, direct, and easy to understand. The following article will walk you through some basic tips for improving accessibility in your emails and communications.
Email and Attachments
Download Microsoft Office
Download and install the latest version of Microsoft Office. This will ensure that you have the most up-to-date versions of the Microsoft products, including updated accessibility tools. Microsoft Office is available for free to Lesley University students, faculty, and staff.
Type in the Body of the Email
When creating your email, be sure to include all important information in the body of the email, not in the subject line or in the attachment.
Use Plain Language
When writing, use plain easy-to-follow language. Avoid jargon, idioms, acronyms, and abbreviations. This will ensure that all users will be able to understand your content.
Use Built-In Formatting Tools
Use built-in formatting tools for headings, tables, bullets/numbering, etc. in the body of your email as well as in any attachments. This makes it easier for users to navigate your content.
Use Meaningful Text for Links
When creating links, do not copy and paste the entire URL, as this is read aloud by screen readers. Instead, use language that describes the link for the viewer. Avoid creating a link that simply says "here", "click here", "learn more" or uses other language that conveys no meaning when taken out of context.
Use Alternative Text for Images, Charts, and Graphs.
Make sure that your images, charts, and graphs are accessible to those using assistive technology. Ensure that all of your images contain alternative text. Do not save text files as images, as the resulting image may result in readability issues for users. If you are using an image to convey information, repeat the text in the document or email.
Create an Accessible PDF
If you are converting your document to a PDF, be sure to create an accessible PDF. Please note that printing your document to PDF will not create an accessible, tagged, PDF.
Run the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker
Run the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker to check the accessibility of your attachments (before attaching) as well as your email itself. The Accessibility Checker may not catch everything, but it will pick up glaring issues and walk you through how to fix them. The Accessibility Checker is available in both the full version of Office 365 as well as the web version.
Use CamelCase Hashtags
Capitalize the first letter of every word in a hashtag. This is better for readability and will also allow a screen reader to read the hashtag aloud. For example, write hashtags #LikeThis instead of #likethis.
Use Emojis Sparingly
A screen reader is set up to automatically read emojis aloud and reading a string of emojis may be distracting to users.
Use Image Descriptions
Include image descriptions or alt text for all images that you are sharing.
- Twitter: Make images accessible
- Facebook: Add alternative text to photos
- Instagram: Add alternative text to photos
Make sure that the videos you're linking to are captioned. If you're creating your own videos, caption them before posting.
- YouTube: Add your own subtitles & closed captions
- Facebook: How do I add captions to my Page's video?
Using Plain Language
Microsoft Office video training tutorials
Microsoft's accessibility training videos will walk you through making your Microsoft content more accessible for all users.
- Outlook: Create more accessible email messages
- Word: Create more accessible documents
- Excel: Create more accessible workbooks
- PowerPoint: Create more accessible slides
The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) provides one-page accessibility resources (cheatsheets) for Microsoft Office products, Adobe products, creating accessible electronic content, and more: Accessibility Cheatsheets.
Accessibility and Usability at Penn State
This site provides a wealth of resources for ensuring that web pages and online documents can be made accessible for users with different disabilities: Accessibility and Usability at Penn State.