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WCAG Definition

The WCAC definition is a set of principles and technical standards on web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Have you received an email in the past month or so that was hard to read, the colour contrast was harsh on your eyes, or the text was too small, I’m sure you have.

And what do you do with those emails, you likely send them to the bin and move on to the next email.

Imagine if this was for every single email you have received in the past month; chances are you will miss something important, feel out of the loop or not considered.

WCAG Inclusion

This might be how you are making your subscribers with disabilities feel when your emails aren’t meeting WCAG compliance. 

In this blog, we explore what WCAG compliance is, review the WCAG standards and what it means for government departments, touch on the legalities of WCAG compliance and have some best practices for the Australian government departments on how to achieve accessibility in emails.

What is WCAG Compliance?

WCAG compliance, or adherence to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, aims to enhance web content accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

This encompasses a range of disabilities, such as visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological impairments.

Meeting WCAG Standards

Being WCAG compliant means that your organisation, business or department must meet certain criteria with your digital marketing platform communications, such as emails and websites.

Meeting WCAG compliance involves paying attention to detail and reviewing and testing your emails and websites to ensure you meet WCAG standards.

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WCAG Standard in Emails For The Australian Government

WCAG compliance in the Australian Government is taken very seriously, with Accessibility NSW leading the way in ensuring NSW Government teams design and deliver products and services that meet all people’s and abilities’ needs, no matter the situation. 

WCAG compliance is also being rolled out as a requirement across the Australian Government to ensure their services are accessible and inclusive of all users regardless of their ability and environment.

What are The 4 Principles of WCAG?

When using your marketing automation platform to create your emails and communications, you should aim to adhere to the WCAG standards and principles when you want to achieve accessibility in emails. WCAG standards follow 4 principles which are:

  1. Perceivable – Information in user interfaces, such as emails and websites, must be presentable in ways that can be perceived easily. To meet WCAG standards, it must remain visible to all their senses.
  2. Operable –  User interfaces, such as emails and websites, must be operable. To meet WCAG standards, the user must be able to operate the interface. 
  3. Understandable – User interfaces, such as emails and websites, must be understandable. The information must be easily understandable and digested.
  4. Robust – Content on user interfaces such as email and websites must be robust and understood by a wide variety of users to meet WCAG standards.

Is WCAG a Legal Requirement in Australia?

WCAG compliance falls under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), which makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals with disabilities in employment, education and goods and services. 

The law applies to individuals and organisations, including websites and online SaaS services such as marketing automation, so, technically, it is a legal requirement. Above all, it is good practice and promotes inclusivity and equality. 

Usability and accessibility principles strive to make the web usable by everyone, including those with disabilities. You can use a WCAG contrast checker to start ensuring your emails and communications are designed to adhere to WCAG standards and are accessible to all.

3 Good WCAG Compliance Checkers

How To Make Your Emails Accessible and Meet WCAG Compliance

Here’s a list of email-friendly, WCAG compliance accessibility principles to remember when building and designing your Australian Government emails and communications.

  1. Text-only emails

  2. Consider Your Colour Use

  3. All Image Emails

  4. Email Hierarchy

  5. Be mindful of Your Links

  6. Alternative Text for Images

  7. Text Size and Font

1. Text Only Emails

To follow WCAG standards, ensure your HTML emails offer plain text versions for those with vision impairments. For WCAG compliance, Swift Digital automatically creates a text version of your emails, and subscribers are offered the option to receive emails in text or HTML format. This will satisfy WCAG standards.

2. Consider Your Colour Use

To further ensure your WCAG compliance for accessibility in emails, you should refer to the branding colours that are used.

Complex colour schemes can be confusing for those with colour vision deficiencies and do not meet WCAG standards. To move forward and meet WCAG standards, you should use colours with high contrast to help elements stand out.

This is particularly relevant when using background colours, links and text. Use a WCAG contrast checker when reviewing the colours used.

3. All Image Emails

To meet accessibility in emails, it is best to avoid all image emails, this is not a practice Swift Digital recommends. What do we mean when we say all image emails?

This includes taking images and building the whole email out of images. This does not meet WCAG standards for accessibility.

To add to this, some email clients block images (Outlook, we’re looking at you), it is best to use text-based emails to meet WCAG compliance and then add Alt text to describe the image.

4. Email Hierarchy

WCAG compliance means that your emails are easy to follow and structured clearly. A predictable flow in the email is important when designing for those with cognitive or neurological disabilities.

For example, you can ensure important content is at the top of the email, and your content follows a predictable format and hierarchy, helping readers to navigate and scan the email more easily.

In summary, keep your email layout simple to avoid running into sensory overload for your disabled users. A one-column layout for your emails is preferable to meet WCAG standards accessibility.

5. Be Mindful of Your Links

To meet WCAG compliance, your URL links should be obvious and large enough so that those with vision impairments can locate them among other images.

Being mindful of the size and placement of your links also benefits those who cannot precisely control a mouse, as well as those using mobile phones.

6. Alternative Text for Images

Using alternative text for images is particularly important in email, as some devices, such as screen readers, do not display images and require a text supplement.

Good alternative text should define the image for those who can’t see it. If you are using images with text in them, the alternative text should display the text in the image.

7. Text Size and Font

Typography includes font size, style, colour, height, etc. Using appropriate sizes and fonts will help to meet WCAG compliance. Use larger font sizes to accommodate visually impaired users. When choosing a font you will use in your email, choose one that is clear to read and evenly spaced.

Larger font sizes will also benefit those reading emails on their mobile device. Aligning your text to the left is also preferable and helps to meet WCAG standards, this is because people prefer to read from left-aligned text, to help maintain character and wording for consistency.

NSW Government

The NSW Government uses Public Sans as their chosen font and follows strict guidelines when using this to ensure they meet WCAG compliance.

Swift Digital and WCAG

Ensuring your emails are accessible to all is more than a law or a best practice; it is a human right. Swift Digital considers WCAG compliance an important part of email marketing and is committed to ensuring the platform meets WCAG accessibility standards for your emails and email campaigns. 

Swift Digital continues to enhance the Swift Digital platform so it meets WCAG standards, and so our clients can meet accessibility in emails at every level. 

For more information on accessibility in emails, visit W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

The Preferred Email, Events and SMS Automation Software For All Australian Government Departments

Swift Digital’s templates help you effortlessly create stunning emails and events communications using our drag-and-drop email and event builder.

You can raise engagement with embedded images, videos, polls, article feedback, and emojis and schedule messages to send at the right time.

Government departments’ unique marketing requirements are covered with Swift Digital, and full compliance with all anti-spam and privacy laws is guaranteed. Swift Digital is also ISO 27001 certified.

Find out why we’re the Australian government department’s number one choice for their professional communications and events.

To find out how your business can get the best out of Swift Digital’s platform, contact our team today.

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