Make your Outlook email accessible

This topic gives you step-by-step instructions to make your email messages accessible to people with disabilities.

Image of an email about the research team offsite on June 9. The email includes the event flier, which includes a photo and the conference venue’s address.

People who are blind or have low vision can understand your emails more easily if you create them with accessibility in mind.

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Windows: Best practices for making Outlook email accessible

The following table includes key best practices for creating Outlook email that is accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix

Why fix it

How to fix it

Include alternative text with all visuals and tables.

Visual content includes pictures, clip art, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.

Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what’s important in images and other visuals.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you must use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the document. In alt text, briefly describe the image and mention the existence of the text and its intent.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to SmartArt graphics

Add alt text to shapes

Add alt text to charts

Add alt text to tables

Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.

Tip: You can also add ScreenTips that appear when your cursor hovers over text or images that include a hyperlink.

Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips

Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information.

People who are blind, have low vision, or are colorblind might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors.

For example, add an underline to color-coded hyperlink text so that people who are colorblind know that the text is linked even if they can’t see the color. For headings, consider adding bold or using a larger font.

Use accessible font format

Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.

The text in your email should be readable in High Contrast mode so that everyone, including people with visual disabilities, can see it well.

For example, use bright colors or high-contrast color schemes on opposite ends of the color spectrum. White and black schemes make it easier for people who are colorblind to distinguish text and shapes.

Use accessible font color

Use a larger font size (11pt or larger), sans serif fonts, and sufficient white space.

People who have dyslexia describe seeing text “swim together” on a page (the compressing of one line of text into the line below). They often see text merge or distort.

For people who have dyslexia or have low vision, reduce the reading load. For example, they may benefit from familiar sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri. Avoid using all capital letters and excessive italics or underlines. Include ample white space between sentences and paragraphs.

Use accessible font format

Adjust space between sentences and paragraphs

Use built-in headings and styles.

To preserve tab order and to make it easier for screen readers to read your email, use a logical heading order and the built-in formatting tools in Outlook.

For example, organize headings in the prescribed logical order. Use Heading 1, Heading 2, and then Heading 3, rather than Heading 3, Heading 1, and then Heading 2. And, organize the information in your email into small chunks. Ideally, each heading would include only a few paragraphs.

Use accessible font format

Use bulleted list styles

Use ordered lists

Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information.

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.

Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

Use table headers

Add alt text to visuals and tables

The following procedures describe how to add alt text to visuals and tables in your Outlook email.

Note: We recommend only putting text in the description field and leaving the title blank. This will provide the best experience with most major screen readers including Narrator. For audio and video content, in addition to alt text, include closed captioning for people who are deaf or have limited hearing.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to images, such as pictures, clip art, and screenshots, so that screen readers can read the text to describe the image to users who can’t see the image.

  1. Right-click an image.

  2. Select Format Picture > Layout & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text area of the Format Picture pane describing the selected image

Add alt text to SmartArt graphics

  1. Right-click a SmartArt graphic.

  2. Select Format Object > Shape Options > Layout & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane describing the selected SmartArt graphic

Add alt text to shapes

Add alt text to shapes, including shapes within a SmartArt graphic.

  1. Right-click a shape.

  2. Select Format Shape > Shape Options > Layout & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane describing the selected shape

Add alt text to charts

  1. Right-click a chart.

  2. Select Format Chart Area > Chart Options > Layout & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text area of the Format Chart Area pane describing the selected chart

Add alt text to tables

  1. Right-click a table.

  2. Select Table Properties.

  3. Select the Alt Text tab.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text tab of the Table Properties dialog box describing the selected table

Make hyperlinks, text, and tables accessible

The following procedures describe how to make the hyperlinks, text, and tables in your Outlook email accessible.

Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips

  1. Select the text to which you want to add the hyperlink, and then right-click.

  2. Select Hyperlink. The text you selected displays in the Text to display box. This is the hyperlink text.

  3. If necessary, change the hyperlink text.

  4. In the Address box, type the destination URL.

  5. Select the ScreenTip button and, in the ScreenTip text box, type a ScreenTip.

Tip: If the title on the hyperlink's destination page gives an accurate summary of what’s on the page, use it for the hyperlink text. For example, this hyperlink text matches the title on the destination page: Templates and Themes for Office Online.

Screenshot of the Insert Hyperlink dialog box

Use accessible font format

  1. Select your text.

  2. Select the Format Text tab.

  3. In the Font group, which provides options for font type, size, style, and color, select your formatting choices.

Screenshot of the Automatic color setting for fonts

Use accessible font color

To ensure that text displays well in High Contrast mode, use the Automatic setting for font colors.

  1. Select your text.

  2. Select Message > Font Color.

  3. Select Automatic.

Screenshot of the Automatic color setting for fonts

Use bulleted list styles

Create bulleted lists by using the Bullets button.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in your email.

  2. Select the Format Text tab.

  3. In the Paragraph group, select the Bullets button.

  4. Type each bullet item in the bulleted list.

Screenshot of the bullet style options

Use ordered lists

Create sequential steps by using the Numbering button.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in your email.

  2. Select the Format Text tab.

  3. In the Paragraph group, select the Numbering button.

  4. Type the sequential steps.

Screenshot of the numbering style options

Adjust space between sentences and paragraphs

Increase or decrease white space between sentences and paragraphs.

  1. Select your text.

  2. Select the Format Text tab.

  3. In the Paragraph group, in the lower-right corner of the group, select the Dialog box launcher.
    The Paragraph dialog box opens, showing the Indents and Spacing tab.

  4. Under Spacing, select the spacing options you want.

Screenshot of the Paragraph dialog box

Use table headers

Specify a header row in a table.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.

  2. On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.

  3. Type column headings.

Screenshot of the Header Row check box

Learn more

Mac: Best practices for making Outlook email accessible

The following table includes key best practices for creating Outlook email that is accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix

Why fix it

How to fix it

Include alternative text with all visuals and tables.

Visual content includes pictures, clip art, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.

Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what’s important in images and other visuals.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you must use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the document. In alt text, briefly describe the image and mention the existence of the text and its intent.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to tables

Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.

Tip: You can also add ScreenTips that appear when your cursor hovers over text or images that include a hyperlink.

Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips

Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information.

People who are blind, have low vision, or are colorblind might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors.

For example, add an underline to color-coded hyperlink text so that people who are colorblind know that the text is linked even if they can’t see the color. For headings, consider adding bold or using a larger font.

Use accessible font color

Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.

The text in your email should be readable in High Contrast mode so that everyone, including people with visual disabilities, can see it well.

For example, use bright colors or high-contrast color schemes on opposite ends of the color spectrum. White and black schemes can help people who are colorblind distinguish between colors.

Use accessible font format

Use a larger font size (11pt or larger), sans serif fonts, and sufficient white space.

People who have dyslexia describe seeing text “swim together” on a page (the compressing of one line of text into the line below). They often see text merge or distort.

For people who have dyslexia or have low vision, reduce the reading load. For example, they may benefit from familiar sans serif fonts, such as Arial or Calibri. Avoid using all capital letters and excessive italics or underlines. Include ample white space between sentences and paragraphs.

Use accessible font format

Adjust space between sentences and paragraphs

Use headings and built-in styles.

To preserve tab order and to make it easier for screen readers to read your email, use a logical heading order and the built-in formatting tools in Outlook.

For example, organize the information in your email into small chunks and add headings above them. Ideally, each section would include only a few paragraphs.

Use accessible font format

Use bulleted lists styles

Use ordered lists

Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information.

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.

Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

Use table headers

Add alt text to visuals and tables

The following procedures describe how to add alt text to visuals and tables in your Outlook email.

Note: For audio and video content, in addition to alt text, include closed captioning for people who are deaf or have limited hearing.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to images, such as pictures, clip art, and screenshots, so that screen readers can read the text to describe the image to users who can’t see the image.

  1. Right-click an image.

  2. Select Format Picture > Layout & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text area of the Format Picture pane describing the selected image

Add alt text to tables

  1. Right-click a table.

  2. Select Table Properties.

  3. Select the Alt Text tab.

  4. Type a description and a title.

    Tip: Include the most important information in the first line, and be as concise as possible.

Screenshot of the Alt Text tab of the Table Properties dialog describing the selected table

Make hyperlinks, text, and tables accessible

The following procedures describe how to make the hyperlinks, text, and tables in your Outlook email accessible.

Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips

  1. Select the text to which you want to add the hyperlink, and then select Add a Hyperlink.
    The text you selected displays in the Text to Display box. This is the hyperlink text.

  2. If necessary, change the hyperlink text.

  3. In the Address box, type the destination URL.

  4. Select the ScreenTip button and, in the ScreenTip text box, type a ScreenTip.

Tip: If the title on the hyperlink's destination page gives an accurate summary of what’s on the page, use it for the hyperlink text. For example, this hyperlink text matches the title on the destination page: Templates and Themes for Office Online.

Screenshot of the Insert Hyperlink dialog

Use accessible font format

  1. Select your text.

  2. Select the Message tab.

  3. In the Font group, which provides options for font type, size, style, and color, select your formatting choices.

Screenshot of the Format Text tab

Use accessible font color

To ensure that text displays well in High Contrast mode, use the Automatic setting for font colors.

  1. Select your text.

  2. Select Message > Font Color.

  3. Select Automatic.

Screenshot of the Automatic color setting for fonts

Use bulleted lists styles

Create bulleted lists by using the Bullets button.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in your email.

  2. Select the Message tab.

  3. In the Paragraph group, select the Bullets button.

  4. Type each bullet item in the bulleted list.

Screenshot of available bullet style options

Use ordered lists

Create sequential steps by using the Numbering button.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in your email.

  2. Select the Message tab.

  3. In the Paragraph group, select the Numbering button.

  4. Type the sequential steps.

Screenshot of available numbering style options

Adjust space between sentences and paragraphs

Increase or decrease white space between sentences and paragraphs.

  1. Select your text, right-click it, and then select Paragraph. The Paragraph dialog opens, showing the Indents and Spacing tab.
    The Paragraph dialog opens, showing the Indents and Spacing tab.

  2. Under Spacing, select the spacing options you want.

Screenshot of the Paragraph dialog

Use table headers

Specify a header row in a table.

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.

  2. On the Table Design tab, select the Header Row check box.

  3. Type column headings.

Screenshot of the Header Row check box

Learn more

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or have questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

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