Accessible Canned Responses

I love canned responses in Gmail; they save me brain bandwidth and time every single day. In a given year, I can have anywhere between 12 and 20 canned responses in circulation. At the end of every academic year, I update them. This is a classic example of a stitch in time saves nine.

I updated my canned responses in haste last summer and I did a lot of editing of them on the fly during the year. For example, I spent the entire academic year deleting a duplicate signature from hundreds of emails promising myself I would revisit this issue in May. When I started assessing the state of my responses in Gmail, I discovered Google enhanced the canned response feature. LifeHacker published a post about the redesign at the end of March. The enhancements they describe made sorting my response library much easier.

As I was cleaning up my templates, I suddenly realized I could take this opportunity to make my emails more accessible. A few months ago, representatives from the College’s Tech Access Committee did a short presentation at a Library All-Staff about Quick Tips for Accessible Information. They even provided us with a handy one sheet with 9 takeaways. I hung up that sheet on my bookshelf and thought ‘I can do some of this stuff in the summer!’ Well, summer is here and I’m happy to report I made a few small changes that I think will pay huge dividends.

  1. I made sure all of the text in my emails were Sans Serif and that the font size was ‘normal’ instead of small.
  2. I amended my hyperlinks so they describe the contents of the destination instead of saying ‘here’ or ‘’
  3. I stopped using color to communicate information and meaning; I italicize instead.
  4. Rather than terrible unformatted lists, I added numbers or bullets.

Finally, I put 2019 in front of all my template names so my tired brain will remember in August that I did, in fact, edit these templates. In 2020 when I once again prune my canned response library, I will be able to see what I’ve edited much faster than recalling which template I did or did not edit. And they will all be more accessible.