Section 508 Guidelines for Creating Accessible Emails

Emails sent on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and other offices are considered digital content and should follow digital guidance on Section 508 compliance. This page touches on the requirements as well as best practices.

All emails must have:

An inviting subject.

  • The subject should be no more than 30 characters, including any emojis.
  • The subject should be formatted in headline format (capitalized).
  • Start your subject with hooking information and/or a call to action (e.g., "Apply Now: $42M for Community Solar Projects") and avoid office names, especially acronyms, or additional information that may cut off the key takeaway and can go in the preheader or body text (e.g., "DOE Announces Program to Support PV Projects in U.S. Regions").
    • Your headline is what most subscribers will see in their inbox or mobile notifications first.

A succinct preheader.

  • Use preheader text (the preview snippet of text that you see in many email clients before opening the email) to entice readers to open your bulletin. 
  • Preheader text should be no more than 140 characters, but keep in mind that most email services show only the first few words.
  • Preheader text should be formatted as a complete sentence (in sentence case).
  • This text can be pulled from the first few lines from the top of your email and is meant to build on the subject line. 

Compelling content.

  • Keep your email bulletin content short, simple, and concise.
  • Do not send emails where the content is embedded in an image, or where the most important content is embedded in an image. 
  • If a news story or announcement is longer than 350 words, consider including a short blurb in the email with a button linking to the full article on the EERE site. This increases site traffic and improves SEO for the website.
  • One-column designs look best, particularly on mobile.

Heading hierarchy.

  • Headers should be used in order and sizes should not be skipped. 
  • GovDelivery provides three header sizes: H1, H2 and H3. 

Color contrast in text/backgrounds and images.

  • Make sure to use highly contrasting colors. WebAIM provides a free color contrast checker.
  • Do not use color alone to convey information. For instance, a pie chart should use symbols as well as color to differentiate each slice and, ideally, include accompanying text explaining the figure.

Include high-resolution images.

  • In general, .png images will give you a sharper result than .jpg or .gif images.
  • Full width images should be 1100 pixels wide. Height is flexible.
  • Thumbnail images should be 350 pixels wide. Height is flexible.

Alt text for images.

  • GovDelivery requires alternative text for any image uploaded into the platform. 
  • Alt text should be no more than 40 characters.
  • Make sure the text is descriptive of the image rather than just using the image's file name. 

Quality Control

To check your email before sending, you should:

  • Send test emails to check the display in various browsers and devices. 
  • Be aware of dark mode on certain devices and how colors/background images may be impacted.
  • Test all links.