Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The National Trust discuss the importance of email accessibility

Digital creative agency ActionRocket talks to Adrian Hart, Adobe Campaign Manager for National Trust to learn how important email accessibility is for a national brand and charity led organisation, discussing how and why it is vital for National Trust to ensure their digital communications are fully accessible, and what it means for their online presence and audience.
We know accessibility is something National Trust pride themselves on both on and offline. With that in mind, can you explain to us why accessibility and inclusivity is so important for National Trust as a brand?
A major part of National Trust’s core strategy is that the National Trust is for everyone, everyone can get involved and everyone can make a difference. Which means that accessibility and inclusivity has to be inherent in the design of everything we do whether that’s caring for nature and the historic environment or in how we present ourselves to our supporters through our website and external communications.
How do you think being more accessible online and through email communication can help to aid your customers experience with National Trust?
With over five million members we naturally have a very diverse audience spanning all age groups, demographics and abilities. We work very hard to ensure that the places we care for: our historic sites, green spaces and coastline are accessible to as many people as possible. We also need to ensure that we provide equal access to information and services online and within our email channel. We don’t want to put up any barriers to our content which is often rich in images. 
One of the most important things we can do is provide a text alternative to images so that people with sensory disabilities can access the information using access technologies such as screen and braille readers.
So tell us, how are you currently accommodating accessibility best practices within your online marketing? And more specifically within email? 
In some respects, we know that our email templates are in pretty good shape as we apply many email accessibility best practices such as using semantic code to clearly define titles, headers and paragraphs as well as the content type. Use of alternative text for our images is baked into our email template creation process. We also pay attention to colour contrast ratio, minimum font sizes and text alignment. But even with all of that covered we know that our email screen reader experience could be improved and that is something we hope to rectify when we use the new email templates designed for National Trust by ActionRocket.
Why do you think it’s so essential for brands to be adopting accessible features within their emails? 
It’s incredibly important that we as brands and creators of online content realise that not all our supporters and audiences are accessing our content in the same way. In the UK, there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss. Of these, around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. We must realise that accessibility isn’t an optional extra or a luxury to be added after everything else has been covered. 
Accessibility should be front and centre all the way through a project lifecycle from concept and design through to user acceptance testing, training and rollout. Only then will we ensure that we can speak to all our audiences on an equal basis, and ensure we’re achieving our commitment of being for everyone.
Have you found any limitations so far when implementing accessible features throughout your online marketing channels?
Yes, we have, our existing suite of email templates are in need of a significant refresh, one of the major benefits of that refresh will be the opportunity to bring the accessible features up to and potentially beyond current industry standards. Because our email templates have been tightly woven into our customised CMS solution that we use for both web and email, we’ve not been able to refresh our templates as fast as we would like. 
The pandemic has played a part in that, project budgets were reduced across the board in 2020 whilst the National Trust dealt with the impact of Covid. The horizon is looking a little brighter now and we very much hope to progress the template refresh later this year.

Finally, what are National Trust’s long term plans and goals in terms of your online accessibility best practices?
We’re currently in the process of replacing our CMS platforms and refreshing our website and email templates which gives us a fantastic opportunity t
o take a close look at our accessibility features and make sure they are completely up to date. Going forward we’ll work closely with our partners to ensure accessibility is at the core of any new enhancements. We’re all used to applying a mobile-first design strategy but we should be applying an accessibility first approach and make sure that’s covered every time.


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