WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Is email accessible?


From: Moore,Michael
Date: Apr 29, 2009 7:30AM

We have been dealing with a few issues related to email accessibility
for JAWS users since our agency has migrated to MS Office 2007. Outlook
2007 does not use the IE rendering engine to display HTML emails. For
emails composed in Outlook this is not a problem and the structure and
alternative text is delivered nicely. However, many newsletters are
distributed containing structure that is not supported well by the MS
Office HTML rendering engine. This is particularly a problem when
attempting to navigate an email where the HTML is dependent on table
layout. JAW tends to just stop reading at a certain point. Since many
email programs including Outlook 2007 do not support CSS positioning
table layout is very common. Our JAWS users have developed a couple of
strategies for reading these types of emails. First, force the email to
open in IE. This usually allows proper rendering and reading but does
not offer the opportunity for a reply. Second, copy and paste the email
into notepad. This results in a loss of structure or hyperlinks, and
sometimes a loss of content, or rendering in a confusing order. The
third option is to have all email converted to plain text, with this
last choice the user looses the structure and sometimes some of the
content and reading order may suffer as well.

My recommendation is to keep all emails simple. If desired, provide a
link to a well formed web presentation of the material contained in the
email. Adding basic structure such as lists or headings will be
beneficial for people who view the email as HTML but keep in mind that
people who choose to receive all email as plain text will not get the

As to top or bottom posting. Is it really necessary to quote the entire
thread? How about just quoting the relevant pieces along with who asked
them with answers in line. Sometimes it may not be necessary to quote
anything, particularly when adding your voice to a discussion. The
subject line of the email may be sufficient.

Mike Moore
(512) 424-4159