Web Accessibility for People with Poor Eyesight and Colour Blindness

Color

Blind people form a minority of web users, however, there are many people who have poor eyesight or are visually impaired to some extent. And with the population getting older, the number of web users with poor eyesight will continue to increase. Websites that are not properly adjusted for users with poor eyesight do not only break the UK Equality Act of 2010 which obliges all UK websites to make proper adjustments in order to ensure accessibility to all visitors but they also risk losing potential customers.

Unlike blind people who depend on text-to-voice or text-to-Braille technology when using the web, people with poor eyesight usually use the so-called screen magnification programme which is either built into their operating system or provided by the web browser. It literally magnifies the text making even the smallest print readable regardless on severity of individual’s visual impairment. It is crucial, however, that the website code allows magnification but it is also highly important to make it as friendly for people with poor eyesight as possible. The thing is that magnification usually makes visible only one part of the website at a time and to be able to see the entire content, the user has to move around (usually left and right) the website. As a result, a website which displays the text in one column is highly inconvenient because the user has to move left and right in every line, while the display of the text on the left and graphics which are vital for understanding of the text on the right side might be misinterpreted.

In addition to making sure that the website allows screen magnification and using a “magnification-friendly” design, web accessibility for people with poor eyesight may also include an option to pick the size of the font by a click on a “font size” icon. But it should also use contrasting text and background colours which significantly improve readability. The use of colours alone, however, does not make a website any friendlier to people who have colour blindness. Most people with this type of disability are able to distinguish between different colours, at least between most colours but they may not be able to see (perceive) the difference between red and green (most common category of colour blindness) especially if both are of approximately the same darkness or not being able to see green, red or blue colour. People who see only black, white and grey account for the minority of colour blindness cases but their disability should be taken into account as well when improving web accessibility.

A website which is friendly for people with colour blindness does not necessarily exclude colours. On the contrary, the use of colours is highly important to make a website attractive and friendly for other users but it is important to make a clear distinction when colours are used to communicate information by adding them a pattern for instance. This will enable people with poor eyesight as well as those with normal eyesight to read the information from the colours, while people who are colour blind will be able to understand the communicated information from the pattern.