Computing Applications Cerf's up

Color Blind Accessibility Manifesto

  1. The Basics
  2. Elaboration
  3. Author
  4. Footnotes
Federico Monaco

The Basics

  • Start with "Why?"

Before designing a website, or even making a small change to an existing one, ask if your design choices consider the needs of people with color blindness.

  • Don't communicate only with colors

Can color really be enough to communicate your message? Color can be one element of a much larger picture, but don't rely on color to serve as the only element of distinction.

  • Design with shapes

Color-blind people can discern the difference between shapes far more easily than between colors. When you design with shapes, you won't cause unnecessary additional effort for the people who visit your website.

  • Choose the right copy

Absolutely avoid identifying tasks or requests to the user only through color. Include other distinguishing characteristics like shape or size.

  • Test your designs in black and white

Switching the UI to black and white helps you evaluate the composition and the usability of your designs. Without the meaning provided by color, is your UI still working? Can you understand the meaning of every button?

  • Rethink button states

Color alone does not convey information for everyone. Use shapes and icons that indicate a button's function.

  • Use contrast

Don't default to using green and red to communicate things like product availability or pass/fail. Using icons, text, and high contrast colors such as blue and red will help many (but not all) people with color blindness.

  • The smaller the item, the bigger the problems

Relying on small, colored elements to signal important information, like updates or status, creates a huge barrier for color blind people.

  • Less fancy, more usable

Dear data visualization designer, stop using hundreds of shades to present your data infographics.

  • More than you think

Although it may seem that color-blind people are few, there are actually 350 million peoplea you are closing the door on when you don't make your site accessible.

Back to Top


Color plays a very important role within our society, think about the meaning that some colors have assumed over time: red to identify danger and green to convey a positive outcome. Although society has decided to exploit color for communication, there are 350 million people around the world for whom this does not work. The degree of their disability can vary considerably up to complete blindness, leading them to live reality in grayscale. When the color-blind community interfaces with the digital world, it is not uncommon for them to encounter serious accessibility problems and in some cases, forces them to leave the platform or website.

A study conducted in 2021 by Web Accessibility In Mind illustrated that 83% of the Internet's top one million homepages failed to meet minimum color contrast requirements. That means about 860,000 of the most visited pages on the Internet aren't designed with people with Color Vision Deficiency in mind.b Such a staggering figure should bother us all. We should ask: "Am I doing my utmost to guarantee access to my platform even to color blind people?" We are talking about not achieving minimum requirements to allow the reading and understanding of a text or a form within the digital world. Every designer and developer today has the opportunity and responsibility to democratize the Internet.

In the online world, any person would experience the lack of contrast as a problem; the poor readability of a dark gray text on a black background disturbs even those who are not affected by color blindness. All this can only be avoided by educating designers (and anyone who finds themselves designing interfaces) about the problem, and providing them with the tools to be able to build accessible digital products.

The Colorblind Assessibility Manifestoc is the result of a thesis project based on a user research with a pool of 25 color blind people, of different ages and from different parts of the world. The research was carried out through video call meetings where the main objective was to understand what were the most problematic situations that these people experienced when navigating online.

WebAIM tells us there is an urgency to work on accessibility. The consequence of this finding for the designers' community must be understanding the importance of accessibility, and to integrate it into the design process at the beginning and not at the end. Designing experiences from an accessibility and inclusion perspective significantly expands creative possibilities and creates better solutions for everyone.

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