A Guide to Creating Accessible Email Newsletters

Departments at Amherst use a variety of tools to create email newsletters. Whichever tool you are using, you can follow these best practices to make your newsletter accessible to all readers. 

“Alt” Text

screenshot of the e-News letter, showing the accessibility features listed on this page

The College’s e-News is an accessible email newsletter.

Alternative text describes images for readers with low vision or who are blind and rely on screen-readers. The text is read aloud or transcribed by a Braille device. Please enter alt text for all your images, describing briefly the content or meaning of the image. 

Tip: If you’re creating your newsletter in Gmail, insert the image then select the image and click “Edit alt text.”

High Contrast

Using high-contrast colors for your text (dark text on a light background, or light text on a dark background) helps readers with low vision to be able to read the text. 

Descriptive Headings

Break up your content with specific headings and subheadings. 

Descriptive Link Names

Screen-reader users often use a keyboard shortcut to list all the links on a page. In such a list, the links have no surrounding text, so it’s important to make your link names descriptive.

Avoid saying “click here.”

Avoid vague or cryptic link names.

An easy way to provide descriptive links is to make your headings into links.

Text as Regular Text — Not an Image

Include photos and images in your newsletter, but make the text of your newsletter regular text. If you must include a graphic that contains a lot of text within it, please see the tips below for making promotional graphics accessible.

Even if you’re including text-heavy graphics in your newsletter, never make your whole newsletter one image. You’ll just need to repeat all the text and headings below the image, which is repetitive. And such a large image won’t be practical for reading on a phone.  

LitFest 2022, details below image

Image description: Amherst College LitFest 2022: Illuminating great writing and Amherst’s literary life. February 24-27, 2022. Join us for Amherst College’s Annual Literary Festival. Books: Elizabeth McCracken, The Souvenir Museum; Natalie Diaz, Postcolonial Love Poem; Katie Kitamura, Intimacies ; Vann Newkirk and David Graham, The American Crisis ; Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Committed.

Promotional Graphics

Your first choice should always be to use images without much text in them, but if you need to include a text-heavy image within an email, please:

  1. Add brief alt text.
    • Email newsletter apps such as Emma or Mail Chimp allow you to enter alt text for images.
    • If using Gmail, create your newsletter in a Google doc first, which will allow you to add alt text to images, and then copy the content into your Gmail message.
  2. Add the full text in a paragraph right below the image. Preface the paragraph with “Image description:” for clarity (see example at right).

Simple Layout

Make your newsletter elegant and accessible at the same time, by using a simple and uncluttered layout. Multiple columns can cause content to be read out of order by a screen-reader. A one-column design will be easier to read, and also will work better on mobile phones. 

Easy-to-Read Typefaces

Fancy fonts with ornate letter shapes can be hard to read. Also, keep in mind that fonts that were originally designed for print aren’t as sharp and clear for screen viewing as fonts that were designed specifically for viewing on screens. 

Here are some widely available fonts that are generally considered accessible:

  • Lato, available at Google Fonts.
  • Roboto, used on Android devices, available at Google Fonts.
  • SF Pro, used on iOS devices, available at Apple. 
  • Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Verdana, available on many computers by default. 
  • If you prefer a serif font, Georgia is considered one of the more accessible serif typefaces and is available on most computers.