Top 5 things to know about visual accessibility

Light sensitivity, contrast sensitivity, and making text readable are important to making a website usable for all. Tom Merritt explains five things you need to know about visual accessibility.

Top 5 things to know about visual accessibility

Accessibility is an important part of making a website that's usable for everyone. Visual accessibility sometimes doesn't get enough attention--let's help fix that. Here are five things to know about visual accessibility.

  1. Consider light sensitivity. Dark Mode isn't just a style, it's an accessible option for people who can't read bright screens. There isn't just one kind of light sensitivity, so offer options like Dark Mode and let users set the brightness.
  2. Consider contrast sensitivity. A lot of people can't read text placed on images, especially if it's white text on a light background or black text on a dark background. Chrome and Firefox have a contrast score check in developer tools to help you combat these issues. The Web Content Accessibility guidelines suggest a contrast ratio of 4.5:1, or if you have large text 3:1.
  3. Consider color blindness. The first thing to do when color is important to an image is add the name of the color in the alt text, like "olive green t-shirt." Whatever you do, color should not be the only way of signaling information or actions on your site.
  4. Make text readable and resizable. Don't use images of text for anything that isn't pure decoration or where the image is essential to conveying the information. And don't use scripts that prevent people from resizing text, or designs that lose content or functionality when the text is made up to 200% bigger.
  5. It's not just the law, it's good for your product. People who are forced to make sites accessible for one reason or another often find they end up making their site work better for everyone. Sites that lead the way in accessibility will end up having a satisfied customer base who will tell their friends about it.

One of the best things you can do is employ or engage someone with a visual accessibility need to review your designs--they'll catch things you might miss.

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By Tom Merritt

Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, coverin...