How does a blind person read their email? Seven conditions to consider when designing and creating email newsletters

Oct 18, 2022 | Accessibility in email, Best practice, Email marketing

Accessibility means making sure everyone can receive and understand your email message regardless of any disabilities or assistive devices they may be using.

Melaina Gross

If you want to create your email content to be accessible, then this article will help you to understand various conditions faced by people in your audience.

About 15% of your clients face permanent or temporary disability at some point in their lives. That’s a fair chunk of your audience that you wouldn’t want to exclude.

Focusing on accessibility means allowing for a range of impairments and disabilities. What we really want to be doing is have an approach that is empathetic to our subscribers.

Here is a list of seven types of disabilities and suggestions for how to build your emails to take them into account:

1. Environmental conditions and temporary impairment

This covers a wide range of circumstances that might make it challenging for people to read your emails, such as broken arms, lost glasses, sluggish internet connections, using a mobile phone in the sun, watching videos without sound in a public place, or even using Alexa or Siri.

In a few weeks, the same people who are currently consuming your content with ease may undergo carpal tunnel or eye surgery.

Close up of man's hand wearing adjustable splint braces on injured or broken fingers.
Modern digital in the ear hearing aid for deafness and the hard of hearing patients.

2. Auditory

Deaf or hard of hearing people. Someone with an auditory handicap may have difficulty with sound intensity, frequency, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Consider including video subtitles and podcast transcripts in your communications.

3. Cognitive

People who have memory, problem-solving, attention, or understanding problems. Use simple presentation, minimize technical terms, give clear instructions where appropriate, and avoid distracting animation when creating emails.

Young woman losing parts of head as symbol of decreased mind function.
Senior man suffering from Parkinson syndrome on grey background

4. Neurological

People suffering from disorders affecting the central and peripheral neurological systems – the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, and so on. Strokes, epilepsy, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors are examples of such conditions.

Make your email easy to navigate by breaking it up into smaller pieces and avoiding precise actions that would be difficult for someone with tremors or using a mouth stick to do.

5. Physical

Those who have motor control weaknesses or limits. Tremors, loss of coordination, paralysis, joint problems such as arthritis, and missing limbs are examples of such symptoms. Check that your email can be read using keyboard navigation and screen readers.

A woman's hand suffering from joint pain with gout in finger
Young man gesturing sign language on video call at home

6. Speech

This includes those who are unable to speak in a way that can be understood by others or by computer software. Stuttering and being mute are only two examples. Include ways to reach you in your email besides a phone call, such as a contact form, a live chat box, or email.

7. Visual

Those who have lost their vision or are sensitive to colour or brightness. Make sure your emails have appropriate colour contrast, are compatible with screen readers, and have font sizes that are large enough to read.

Girl child in glasses playing games on smartphone at home

 Screen readers are a major assistive technology for people with cognitive and visual impairments.

They read the text and images on their digital screens. Depending on how your email is designed, a screen reader will vocalize the information, reading both the page’s structure and individual parts out loud.

Screen readers deliver content to users one thing at a time, which is crucial to keep in mind because it differs significantly from how we visually consume emails. Screen reader users advance through the email in phases, as opposed to sighted subscribers who can quickly understand the email’s content and design. It is important that the structure and content of your emails be specially created with them in mind.


Experience how a screen reader reads one of Cantaloupe’s recent email newsletters:


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