Section 508 is a United States federal law that requires all electronic and information technology (EIT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes email, which is a critical communication tool for many businesses and organizations.
There are several reasons why Section 508 is important for email design and development:
- Accessibility is a right. People with disabilities have the right to access the same information and services as everyone else. This includes the right to receive and send email.
- It’s the law. Federal agencies and businesses that contract with the federal government are required to comply with Section 508.
- It’s good business. Making your emails accessible to people with disabilities can help you reach a wider audience and grow your business.
Steps to Section 508 compliance
It’s a good idea to pursue Section 508 compliance for your emails, even if it’s not required for your organization. Basic requirements for accessible email campaigns include:
- Maintaining a logical reading order
- Using heading elements in code
- Including sufficient contrast between text and background colors
- Providing text alternatives for images
- Featuring meaningful link text
- Keeping your code concise
- Using a descriptive subject line
There are a number of things you can do to make your emails Section 508 compliant. Use this Section 508 email checklist, along with the basic requirements mentioned previously, to start creating accessible emails.
- Use clear and concise language. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be difficult for people with disabilities to understand.
- Use alt text for images. Alt text is a text description of an image that is read by screen readers used by people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Use a consistent font size and style. This will make it easier for people with dyslexia or other reading disabilities to read your emails.
- Use headings and subheadings to organize your content. This will make it easier for people to scan your emails and find the information they need.
- Employ a high-contrast color scheme. This will make your emails easier to read for people with color blindness. Also, avoid using color to convey meaning.
- Use plenty of white space. Include enough white space for accessibility (including padding and margin) to support readability and comprehension.
Once you have made your emails Section 508 compliant, it’s important to test them to make sure they are accessible to all users. Here are a couple of tips:
- Use a screen reader to test your emails. This will help you identify any areas where your emails are not accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Use an accessibility testing tool. There are a number of accessibility testing tools available online, including Assistiv Labs and the Color Contrast Checker. Other tools can scan your emails for accessibility issues.
Continue to research best practices on your own. There are plenty of accessibility podcasts, articles, and YouTube videos online to help you learn all about email accessibility.
Section 508 is an important law that ensures that people with disabilities have access to the same information and services as everyone else. This law only applies to government agencies, organizations that receive federal funding, and service providers to federally-funded organizations, but by making your emails Section 508 compliant, you can help reach a wider audience and grow your business.