Seven Myths of Color Contrast Accessibility
Setting the record straight on some common misconceptions and the nuances of accessibility guidelines
There’s a growing demand for designers to make their interfaces accessible to all users. It’s important to accommodate users with disabilities, but there are many myths to color contrast accessibility being perpetuated by misinformed people.
They often parrot these myths to discredit a design, without understanding in which situations a color contrast standard applies. Not only that, but they assume an interface is inaccessible whenever color contrast is used to convey information.
Because of this, designers often feel the need to obsess over accessibility, and are misled into believing their interface isn’t accessible when it actually is. This article debunks common color contrast accessibility myths and sets the record straight.
Myth 1: The WCAG requirements are always optimal
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of principles used as the standard for determining accessible color contrast. However, these guidelines do not always measure up in practical application. Instead of following them dogmatically, you should use them to guide your design decisions, not dictate them.
One case where the WCAG standards aren’t applicable is with the brightness contrast of white text. Both buttons below have a blue background, but one has white text, and the other has black. When you survey users on which button is easier to read, the majority will tell you the button with the white text is more readable. But the accessibility color contrast ratios tell a different story.
The contrast ratio for the black text is 5.41, which passes the requirement. However, the contrast ratio for the white text is 2.94, which fails it. According to the contrast requirements, the button with white text should be less readable, but it’s actually more readable.