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Re: Accessibility for email newsletters sent in HTML format


From: Christian Heilmann
Date: Oct 13, 2006 1:00PM

> 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

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/