Creating Accessible Emails

Email is one of the most common and important forms of communication to many of us in the TCU community.  It is efficient, convenient, and instantly creates a record of the communication.  While email is a great way to reach your targeted audience, it is important to ensure that the emails sent out are accessible to all people.  Some individuals are using assistive technology to read emails and because of this, it is important to format your email properly.

Tips & Best Practices

Here are a few tips and best practices for creating accessible emails using Microsoft Outlook:

SUBJECT LINE:  Create a descriptive subject line for the reader

FORMAT:  Within Outlook, it is recommended to turn off the “Rich Text” format and choose either “Plain Text” or “HTML” from the toolbar.  For emails that are primarily composed of visual elements, create a plain-text version of the email.  This version will contain only the text from the email.

COLORS and FONT:  Select an appropriate font style and size and avoid using script base or elaborate fonts as these may be difficult to read.  Just as with Word documents, “sans serif” fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Times New Roman, or Veranda work best.  Additionally, use sufficiently large font sizes – generally a minimum of 11 points is recommended.  Provide a high color contrast to the text in your document.  It is suggested to keep the background white and use black text; however if background color is included, ensure that that the contrast with the accompanied text is appropriate.  Add bold font to convey meaning in place of merely using color to create an emphasis.

INSERTING A HYPERLINK:  Avoid using vague or generic text (e.g., “Click Here”).  When creating and including links in an email, describe the content in the link text, making it clear what the destination of the link is.  Select the text that requires the hyperlink, then click the Hyperlink button > The selected text will appear in the Text to Display box and this will become the hyperlinked text (if necessary, change the hyperlink text) > Type the destination URL in the Address box (A Screen Tip can also be added here to display desired text when the cursor rests over the hyperlink).

HEADINGS and LISTS:  With longer emails, use headings to break up the content and help the reader navigate the email.

IMAGES and GRAPHICS: For emails containing images, pictures, or graphics, use alternative text (Alt Text) to provide the user with an accurate description of the image or graphic.  Alternative Text allows assistive technology, (e.g., screen reader) to provide the user with a description of what is being displayed in the email.  Images with embedded text are not accessible, even with a screen reader.

Once the image is added to the email, right-click over it and select Format Picture > Select the Layout and Properties option > Select Alt Text > Enter a Title and Description of the image.  It is recommended to keep Alt Text to 125 characters or fewer, as most screen readers break up text into blocks of 125 characters.

Accessible Images

Do not include important information only in images.  If the image contains content important to your email, be sure that the description provided in the Alt Text contains all the pertinent information you are seeking to convey to the reader.  Or consider repeating the information contained within the image in the text above or below the image if necessary.

If you plan to use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the body of the email (e.g, above or below the image). Also, briefly describe the image using the Alt Text function, mentioning the existence of the text and its intent.

“False Confessions and Testimonial Injustice”, Jennifer Lackey, Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy, (Northwestern University)

The talk will be held at 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 12, in Moudy North 141.

Here is some further information on the talk by Professor Lackey:

In the criminal justice system, confessions have long been considered the “gold standard” in evidence. An immediate problem arises for this gold standard, however, when the prevalence of false confessions is taken into account. Since 1989, there have been 353 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States, and 28% of these involved false confessions. Moreover, false confessions involve everything from minor infractions to detailed accounts of violent crimes.

In this paper, I take a close look at false confessions in connection with the phenomenon of testimonial injustice. I show that false confessions provide a unique and compelling challenge to the current conceptual tools used to understand this epistemic wrong. In particular, I argue that we cannot make sense of the unjust ways in which false confessions function in our criminal justice system by focusing exclusively on speakers getting less credibility than they deserve. I conclude that the way we conceive of testimonial injustice requires a significant expansion to include what I call agential testimonial injustice—where an unwarranted credibility excess is afforded to speakers when their epistemic agency has been denied or subverted in the obtaining of their testimony. At the same time, I show that work by legal scholars and social scientists can benefit by viewing the practices that produce confessions through the lens of this expanded notion, and hence that epistemological tools can shed light on issues with enormous moral and practical consequences.

Accessible email example

The main message of this email is regular (selectable) text, followed by a poster-style image. If a user cannot view images–or they fail to load for some reason–the message is preserved.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information.  A screen reader is unable to read text contained within an image.

Inaccessible email example

The major message of this email was only in an image. Since the images didn’t load, the message is effectively lost.