Color Blindness and Website Assistive Technology

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Did you know that we are all born color-blind?

Our vision slowly improves from birth, and most of us can see the full-color spectrum by the time we reach six months of age. However, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women remain color blind throughout their lives. That’s an average population percentage of around 4.5%, accounting for over 300 million people worldwide.

What Is Color Blindness?

Color Blindness is also known as Color Vision Deficiency and is defined as the decreased ability to see colors or differences in colors. The condition is mostly genetic and incurable. However, some people develop color blindness later in life due to old age, head injuries, or diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Color Blindness is Different for Everyone

The most common form of color blindness involves reds and greens. Blue/yellow color blindness and total color blindness are much rarer. But regardless of the type, everyone experiences color blindness differently.

For example, being red/green color blind doesn’t necessarily mean people will only confuse reds and greens. Any color containing red or green pigments can be problematic, which means people may also confuse blue with purple because they can’t distinguish the red hues within a purple object.

The effects of color blindness also vary in severity. Research reveals that around 40% of color-blind people leave secondary school still unaware of their condition. However, around 60% experience problems in everyday life such as:

  • Picking out clothing

  • Determining ripe from rotten food

  • Understanding traffic lights

  • Reading information online

How does color blindness affect internet use: infographic

How Does Color Blindness Affect Internet Use?

Any visual impairment can make online reading difficult because text size, font, and spacing all affect readability. But for those who are color blind, the most significant factor tends to be color contrast. Low-quality monitors, bad lighting, and screen glare can influence the clarity of some colors, but even without these, some websites simply do not use combinations that are color-blind friendly.

Poor Color Contrasts

Color combinations to avoid include:

  • green/red

  • green/brown

  • blue/purple

  • green/blue

  • light green/yellow

  • blue/grey

  • green/grey

  • green/black

The picture below shows how a regular-sighted person would view these colors compared to someone with Protanopia (red color blindness).

How a regular sighted person would view these colours compared to someone with Protanopia
Image Source: Smashing Magazine

The Perils of Grey Scaling

Grey scaling makes websites incredibly difficult to use for people with vision problems. It tends to cause headaches and eye strain because all elements on the page look the same. Plus, usability is impacted because:

  • Calls to action look disabled

  • Links are indiscernible

  • The hierarchy of information is lost

Color Blind Inclusive Website Design

When making accessibility adjustments to accommodate color-blind readers, web designers should consider the following action points:

  • Text – To be readable, the text should be based on accepted text color, background color, and text size combinations. The newest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) require a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text (14 points) and 3:1 for large text (18 points +).
  • Images – Where text is overlaid onto images, the opacity of the image often needs to be increased to make the text readable.
  • Links – Links should be easy to identify without relying on color or hovering over the text with a cursor. Underlining links is a good way to make links easier to spot.
  • Swatches – Use labels or descriptive text, as it is often impossible to differentiate between options on color picker charts based on visuals alone.
  • Required fields – Some people may not see the difference when color is used to signify mandatory fields on online forms. Using asterisks or clearly labeling some fields as ‘required’ are better options.
  • Placeholder text – Placeholder text usually has insufficient contrasts, but increasing the contrast causes confusion between placeholder text and user input text. So it’s much better to use labels than placeholder text on forms and login pages.
  • Buttons – Don’t use color alone to identify primary buttons. The right solutions depend on branding preferences, but alternatives include utilizing boldness, icons, borders, and sizing.
  • Graphs – Using patterns rather than single blocks of color to denote different sections makes visual displays much easier to understand.

Helpful Tools

WebAim Contrast Checker – This allows you to check any two colors against each other to gauge contrast suitability.

Color Oracle Color Blindness Simulator – Provides demonstrations and examples of how people with vision deficits view things differently.

Toptal Webpage Filter – Previews what web pages look like to people with various forms of color blindness.

How Can Website Accessibility Technology Help?

To support those with color blindness and other visual impairments, the Recite Me toolbar provides a wide range of customizable options to enable website visitors to tailor their experience. This includes background, text, and link colors, removing pictures from pages to minimize styling distractions, and having content read aloud. Users can:

  • Change the color of HTML-coded attributes, including text, background, links, and buttons.

  • Experiment with unlimited combinations, allowing complete control over the color spectrum to account for all preferences.

  • Choose from 35 text-to-speech languages.

What Recite Me technology cannot do is change colors within images. Nor does our technology promise to make your website instantly ‘accessible’ in the form of how a website is built or compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Our software is built with WCAG principles at its core, but the onus is on business owners to make their websites as accessible as possible, to begin with. Then, with Recite Me software integrated, you can provide your online visitors with as many choices as possible. Not dictating how someone should view a website creates a unique inclusive experience.

“The range of styling features on the Recite Me assistive toolbar massively supports my content reading. Mostly the font size increase button, the color contrast, and font options”.

Martin Lea, Recite Me Sales Executive

Is Your Website Color Inclusive?

Inaccessible websites and apps create barriers to use. No matter what sector of business your organization sits in, this is simply not good for business. Here’s our 5-step process for ensuring your website is accommodating of color-blind users:

  1. Take some time to reflect on the difference being inclusive will mean for your target market. By making your products, services, and information accessible to more of the population, you stand to increase traffic flow, sales, and revenue.

  2. Check that your web design conforms to best practices and principles for accessibility.

  3. Familiarise yourself with the WCAG and ensure your website meets the minimum requirements.

  4. Check the disability legislation that applies to websites in your location, and make a plan to complete any necessary updates. Here in the US, we follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, if your business operates further afield in the UK or Australia, you will also need to be familiar with the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

  5. Look into assistive technology software to add further layers of usability to your website, making it truly inclusive.

Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website and can usually be installed in under an hour. Our software is already active on over 3500 websites, and every year we help millions of people to enjoy inclusive journeys online.

Contact our team today to learn more or book a live demo of our toolbar.

Article Sources: Enchroma, Color Blind Guide.

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