Suffering from poor eyesight or design? Some thoughts on web accessibility.

"Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is. One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. (...)

But if the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails that open access by excluding large swaths of people, such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low-quality screens. (...)

It wasn’t hard to isolate the biggest obstacle to legible text: contrast, the difference between the foreground and background colors on a page. In 2008, the Web Accessibility Initiative, a group that works to produce guidelines for web developers, introduced a widely accepted ratio for creating easy-to-read webpages.
To translate contrast, it uses a numerical model. If the text and background of a website are the same color, the ratio is 1:1. For black text on white background (or vice versa), the ratio is 21:1. The Initiative set 4.5:1 as the minimum ratio for clear type, while recommending a contrast of at least 7:1, to aid readers with impaired vision. The recommendation was designed as a suggested minimum contrast to designate the boundaries of legibility. Still, designers tend to treat it as as a starting point.
For example: Apple’s typography guidelines suggest that developers aim for a 7:1 contrast ratio. But what ratio, you might ask, is the text used to state the guideline? It’s 5.5:
Google’s guidelines suggest an identical preferred ratio of 7:1. But then they recommend 54 percent opacity for display and caption type, a style guideline that translates to a ratio of 4.6:1. (...)

So why are designers resorting to lighter and lighter text? (...)"

via/more Kevin Marks (Backchannel)

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