Accessibility and Color Contrast

At The College of Saint Rose, the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities coordinates academic support services for students with disabilities, such as extended time on tests, note taker support, and computer technology. Please seek their guidance and support in choosing texts for your course.

The following is informational only, and is intended to help faculty create more universally accessible content using the tools and technologies already provided by Information Technology Services. It is the responsibility of the course instructor to deliver course content in a way that is accessible by students using assistive technology.

Contrast has to do with the readability of text in documents or web pages. If the background color is too close to the text color, users with low vision, low quality monitors, bad lighting, or users on mobile devices may be unable to successfully read the information. Color contrast can also affect users who are colorblind. The easiest way to prevent color contrast issues is to use black text on a white background, but if you want to get more creative, you can check your colors with sites like Check My Colours, Color Safe, or WebAIM’s Contrast Checker (the last two require you to know the hex codes of your colors). A primer on color contrast can be found at Contrast Rebellion, and this article, Color Contrast for Better Readability, is aimed at web design but is helpful for any sort of document.

Text on a background that is difficult to read due to contrast.

Remember that color alone should not be the only indicator of an important concept or distinguishing an element. You can use shapes, bold or italic text, or different font sizes as well. Not only will this benefit your users with accessibility needs, but if the pages are printed out in black and white, they will remain easily understood.

A line graph in black and white with plot points.

The use of distinctive shapes on the plot points makes the graph easy to read, even without color.

A line graph without plot points in black and white.

A standard graph, using only colors to denote trends, becomes difficult to understand in black & white.

Using 12 point or larger fonts, and using sans serif fonts (like Arial or Calibri) can also to help improve legibility.

Arial is a sans serif font that may be easier to see than Times or other fonts with character styling.