Creating accessible emails in Microsoft Outlook

Estimated read time: 1 minute 55 seconds

When drafting an email, keep the following areas in mind to ensure everyone can access it.

Who does this affect?

  • Mateo has dyslexia. His colleague sent him an urgent email using a cursive font. This makes it difficult for him to read, so it takes him longer to respond.
  • Rory is photosensitive. They receive an email with an animated flashing GIF which triggers a migraine.
  • Nadiya only has her smart phone with her. She receives an email with a screen shot of text which is too small for her to read. She cannot properly read the email until she gets to a desktop computer.

Steps to take

  1. Make sure your text has acceptable colour contrast
  2. Write in plain language
  3. Use an accessible font
  4. Use descriptive hyperlinks
  5. Structure your content using headings and lists
  6. Add Alternative Text to visual content
  7. Clearly name all documents that you attach to emails. Include a description of the attachments in the body of your email
  8. Use tables for only tabular data, like a schedule or list of fees
  9. Use a signature rather than an electronic business card to sign off your emails
  10. Use Outlook’s Accessibility Checker to identify issues

Structure your content

People and assistive technologies scan written content looking for headings. Headings provide context for the reader to decide if the information is relevant. If you have a long email, use headings to break the content out into scannable chunks.

  • Use a ‘Heading 1 (H1)’ at the start of your document. Only use H1 once
  • Break content into manageable chunks with ‘Heading 2 (H2)’ to create sub-headings
  • Write short headings that describe the content using keywords
  • Use sentence case for headings (start with a capital letter and the rest should be lower case)
  • Use bullet point lists to make content easier to scan. Only use numbered lists to show ordered steps

Watch Microsoft’s video on improving heading accessibility.

Use descriptive hyperlinks

Hyperlink keywords that describes where the link goes. For example: don’t use ‘click here’ or ‘read more’.

Add ScreenTips that provide a description when your cursor hovers over a hyperlink.

How to: File > Options > General > ScreenTips Style > Show Feature Descriptions in ScreenTips > OK

Watch Microsoft’s video on creating accessible links.

Make your email signature accessible

Your team may have rules on how to write your email signature. Make sure they follow accessibility standards.