Breaking Down Website Accessibility and Color Contrast

Recently my partner and I repainted our apartment and while selecting colors, what appeared green to me was sage to her; when I saw teal, she saw blue! Crazy, right? Well, not really!

If a group of people looks at the color of a wall, a picture, a piece of furniture, or a clothing item – everyone’s response to what color they see is usually different. As we are all different, we tend to perceive and register things differently.

When building a website, it’s important to keep in mind the unique difference and needs of your website visitors. The colors you choose to apply to your website pages, call-to-action buttons, different page folds, or product design must consider the needs of all your users. Some of your users may have photosensitivity,

Yes, color contrast is key to building an accessible website. It’s laid down as a mandate under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

In this blog, let’s understand what it is, why it’s important and how to get started with Color Contrast for your accessible and user-friendly website.

Website Accessibility and Color Contrast

You must be wondering where to start or better understand how to effectively utilize color contrast in your website design to make it accessible to a diverse user base. First, it would help to understand what color contrast is.

Color contrast is the difference in brightness between anything in the foreground (text, buttons, links, etc.) and its background (gradients, images, etc.). Good design incorporates sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors.

For example, your website homepage has a neon green banner to promote an ongoing flash sale. On this banner, you add a CTA button that is light green with bold white text – do you think your website visitors will be able to see the text and button? And imagine if a person with sensitivity to color comes to your website. Will they have a good experience? Probably not!

The contrast ratio prescribed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is 4:5:1 (Level AA). However, there are a few exceptions:

  • A contrast ratio of at least 3:1 applies to large-scale text or images of large-scale text
  • Logotypes, incidental text, and images have no contrast requirements<

It is worth noting there is an enhanced ratio of 7:1, which complies with the Level AAA requirements.

Advantages of Color Contrast

These guidelines can help you check the different elements on your website and ensure that each is applied. This will help you create an inclusive user experience for your website visitors, regardless of their abilities and needs. Additionally, website accessibility is a legal requirement, and you must adhere to the prescribed guidelines for color contrast. To summarize, applying the right color contrast across your website brings in the following advantages:

  • Utilizing color contrast in your website design process will enable you to create an inclusive user experience.
  • Your content will be easily accessible by users with vision impairments such as contrast sensitivity or color blindness.
  • It ensures your content can be viewed regardless of a change in lighting conditions (e.g., sunlight).
  • Adhering to the guidelines outlined in the WCAG 2.1 will ensure your content complies with the required standards.

Color Contrast Tools To Make Your Website Accessible 

Various tools are available to assess color contrast to ensure your website meets the WCAG requirements and your content is accessible to everyone. Most of these tools are free, and you can pick one that best works with your website and your requirements. Here are some of the tools you can check out to make your website color contrast more accessible:

Contrast Tracker – Provides a score based on the foreground and background colors and displays how your content will be visible to colorblind users. You can then use the scores to make changes to different elements of your website.

Contrast Grid – This allows you to test various foreground and background color combinations to check for compliance against the minimum contrast requirements outlined in WCAG 2.0.

WebAim Contrast Checker – One of the many tools provided by WebAim, an organization providing tools and services to make content more accessible to people with disabilities.

Stark – Provides a contrast checker with color suggestions and enables you to design and test combinations to ensure compliance with the latest compliance standards.

Chrome Dev Tools – Considered to have a suite of features for manually testing contrast on a website/webpage.

Whether it is an existing website or you’re looking to build a new one, the tools listed above will indicate how compliant and accessible your content is when it comes to color contrast.

Get Started with Accessible Website Color Contrast

Web Accessibility ensures that products, websites, and tools are designed so that users with disabilities, special needs, and unique abilities can perceive, navigate, understand and interact online.

Color contrast is one of many things you can do to ensure your content is accessible to everyone, even those who may be impaired. The color contrast of your background and foreground is an important component of accessibility that you can resolve easily. Good design caters to all users, and incorporating the right color contrast ratios that meet the web accessibility guidelines will create an enhanced and inclusive user experience.

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