The Search for an Accessible Email Newsletter Solution

A common service that authors (especially indies) will provide to their fans is an email newsletter they can subscribe to in order to get notified of new releases, works in progress, and so on. For the last couple of years, I’ve been struggling to find one that was accessible enough for my purposes. (I’m blind and use a screen reader to operate tech.) I tried a few services that were well-known and reputable, but they were all severely lacking in accessibility. Just how inaccessible was shocking in some cases.

I came away from the endeavor figuring that I’d either need to use sighted assistance or roll my own solution–a prospect I didn’t particularly relish. So the whole project was put on the backburner for a little while.

Recently, a service that I’d not previously heard of began advertising on several RelayFM podcasts. DirectMailMac.com is different from the other services I’d tried in several ways, but the most key was that they use an application (macOS) rather than a web interface, to build and manage your mailing list.

With no expectations of success, I decided I’d at least check the service out and see if it was usable at all. I downloaded the application and began to explore.

At first, I was pleasantly surprised. All controls were labeled properly and accessible. In 2020, this should be the minimum apps are shipped with, but sadly, many developers won’t even put in that relatively trivial amount of effort. All the basics worked though, and I was becoming cautiously optimistic.

The real surprise came when I tried to build an email. This is generally done in these kinds of mailing list services by drag-and-dropping chunks of content around to create your formatted newsletter. That’s fine when you can see what you’re doing, but not ideal when you can’t—particularly if you want the result to be visually attractive in the end.

DirectMail’s macOS app detects if you are running VoiceOver (the Mac’s built-in screen reader) and, when you add new content blocks to your email, offers a UI that walks you through the process of properly placing it in relation to other blocks already there.

“Do you want this block of social media links above the footer text or below the spacer?” “Do you want this new text block to appear in the first or second column?” It’s all quite intuitive. You can even add descriptions to images embeded in your newsletter for visually impaired subscribers.

I have no idea what prompted this company to put this level of work into making sure their app was not just accessible but a great and fully usable experience for VoiceOver users, but I love them for it! I wish more companies would put that kind of time and effort into making sure all their users had a superb experience.

As a result, I’m preparing to relaunch my own author newsletter–and the best part is, I can design and write it fully independently! If this is a service you have a need for, I cannot recommend DirectMailMac.com highly enough.

If you’re interested in receiving updates on my work, especially my writing, the signup form for my author newsletter is here.

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