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Thread: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format

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From: Maggie Thomson
Date: Fri, Oct 13 2006 11:00AM
Subject: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format
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Hi



I am investigating accessibility issues regarding distribution of email
newsletters in HTML format.



I imagine that best practice accessibility principles apply here too and
that emails sent in HTML format present all the same issues as HTML web
pages.



However, are there any other challenges specific to emails?



Any bits of advice, or if anyone has faced issues in the past - it would
be great if you could share.



Many thanks



Maggie









From: Christian Heilmann
Date: Fri, Oct 13 2006 1:00PM
Subject: Re: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format
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> Hi
> I am investigating accessibility issues regarding distribution of email
> newsletters in HTML format.
> I imagine that best practice accessibility principles apply here too and
> that emails sent in HTML format present all the same issues as HTML web
> pages.
> However, are there any other challenges specific to emails?
> Any bits of advice, or if anyone has faced issues in the past - it would
> be great if you could share.
> Many thanks
> Maggie

It is more about availability. Email clients are even pickier than
browsers during the browser wars when it comes to displaying HTML
correctly, and not all allow for multipart mime type. Embedding all
the imagery and HTML can create huge emails, too, which is not a nice
thing to get (the encoding type of emails adds a lot of extra KB to
any image you use).

The other option of embedding pictures and styles from a server is not
safe either, as a lot of users and mail admins prevent loading of
third party content as that could be used to verify the validity of a
mail for spamming (I add an image in a mail, which really is a script
that tracks if it is called from a server - that way I'll know my
email arrived and was opened and hooray I can tell you about all kind
of medication and how to increase your appendages).

General consensus as to how to create safe HTML email (in terms of
display) is to embed all styles and use presentational markup, which
means that the mail throws up all the accessibility issues badly
developed web sites have and may not be rendered correctly to boot.

Email is used as a communication device by a lot of blind users, as it
by default is text and should be easy to listen to. If you create
tagsoup, that is something the assistive technology will have to
digest and make available. Screen readers are good, but is it really
needed?

Personally I don't ever allow HTML email, and companies that offer
only HTML emails as their primary format don't get my custom.

--
Chris Heilmann
Book: http://www.beginningjavascript.com
Blog: http://www.wait-till-i.com
Writing: http://icant.co.uk/




From: smithj7
Date: Fri, Oct 13 2006 1:50PM
Subject: Re: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format
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At work, we had the same issue of making an accessible email newsletter as
our default for email is text only (work for Florida Blind Services and
speech users don't usually set their email system to html.) We found some
great suggestions at http://www.headstar.com/ten/

But our sighted employees wanted more color and graphics, so we ended up
just puting the newsletter up in html on our website and sent subscribers
links to the page.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Christian Heilmann" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
To: "WebAIM Discussion List" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
Sent: Friday, October 13, 2006 2:49 PM
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML
format


>> Hi
>> I am investigating accessibility issues regarding distribution of email
>> newsletters in HTML format.
>> I imagine that best practice accessibility principles apply here too and
>> that emails sent in HTML format present all the same issues as HTML web
>> pages.
>> However, are there any other challenges specific to emails?
>> Any bits of advice, or if anyone has faced issues in the past - it would
>> be great if you could share.
>> Many thanks
>> Maggie
>
> It is more about availability. Email clients are even pickier than
> browsers during the browser wars when it comes to displaying HTML
> correctly, and not all allow for multipart mime type. Embedding all
> the imagery and HTML can create huge emails, too, which is not a nice
> thing to get (the encoding type of emails adds a lot of extra KB to
> any image you use).
>
> The other option of embedding pictures and styles from a server is not
> safe either, as a lot of users and mail admins prevent loading of
> third party content as that could be used to verify the validity of a
> mail for spamming (I add an image in a mail, which really is a script
> that tracks if it is called from a server - that way I'll know my
> email arrived and was opened and hooray I can tell you about all kind
> of medication and how to increase your appendages).
>
> General consensus as to how to create safe HTML email (in terms of
> display) is to embed all styles and use presentational markup, which
> means that the mail throws up all the accessibility issues badly
> developed web sites have and may not be rendered correctly to boot.
>
> Email is used as a communication device by a lot of blind users, as it
> by default is text and should be easy to listen to. If you create
> tagsoup, that is something the assistive technology will have to
> digest and make available. Screen readers are good, but is it really
> needed?
>
> Personally I don't ever allow HTML email, and companies that offer
> only HTML emails as their primary format don't get my custom.
>
> --
> Chris Heilmann
> Book: http://www.beginningjavascript.com
> Blog: http://www.wait-till-i.com
> Writing: http://icant.co.uk/
>
>
>
>





From: Jared Smith
Date: Fri, Oct 13 2006 2:20PM
Subject: Re: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format
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Maggie Thomson wrote:
> Hi
>
> I am investigating accessibility issues regarding distribution of email
> newsletters in HTML format.

Here's what we do with our newsletter - http://webaim.org/newsletter This
is by no means best practice, but it has worked well. We provide an option
for text or HTML versions. The HTML-encoded e-mail actually has the text
version embedded within it, so if the user's e-mail client preferences are
for text, the user sees the text version instead, even if they receive the
HTML version. This does add to the size of the HTML e-mail, but for
accessibility, we feel it is important.

Yes, the same accessibility requirements of standard web pages will apply
to HTML e-mail, though you have to recognize that much of that
accessibility will not be apparent to screen reader users in their e-mail
client anyways. And some clients, like GMail, will strip out most of it
(including most styles) anyways. We've found it best to keep a fairly
simple, semantically structured HTML e-mail that uses simple, embedded CSS
for basic visual styling.

We also provide a web-based version of the HTML e-mail so users can access
it online and get the full accessibility functionality of their assistive
technology.

The TEN standard (well, I don't know if it's really a standard, probably
more of a recommendation) is one method for marking up text-only e-mails. I
personally feel that the TEN markup may introduce an unnecessary cognitive
load for users. Users must also be familiar with the markup for it to make
a lot of sense. We use simple designations to mark up headers and sections
that seem to provide structure and visual rendering in most e-mail clients.

Jared Smith
WebAIM.org