Case Study: Color Blindness

Mr. Lee, Online shopper with color blindness

Mr. Lee wants to buy some new clothes, appliances, and music. As he frequently does, he is spending an evening shopping online. He has one of the most common visual disabilities for men: color blindness, which in his case means an inability to distinguish between green and red.

He has difficulty reading the text on many websites. When he first started using the Web, it seemed to him the text and images on a lot of websites used poor color contrast, since they appeared to use similar shades of brown. He realized that many websites were using colors that were indistinguishable to him because of his red/green color blindness. In some cases, the site instructions explained that discounted prices were indicated by red text, but all of the text looked brown to him. In other cases, the required fields on forms were indicated by red text, but again he could not tell which fields had red text.

Mr. Lee has found that he prefers websites that use sufficient color contrast, and redundant information for color. The websites accomplish this by including names of the colors of clothing as well as showing a sample of the color; by adding text cues such as an asterisk to discounted prices in addition to showing them in a different color; and by clearly indicating the required fields on the order form in addition to indicating them by color.

After additional experimentation, Mr. Lee discovered settings in his web browser that allowed him to define customized color combinations for text, links, and the background. He also discovered settings for high color contrast combinations in his web browser that he can switch on when he encounters a website that is difficult to read. However, this approach does not work for all websites, such as those that are not coded to allow readers to override the default presentation of the website.

Eventually, Mr. Lee bookmarked a series of online shopping sites where he could get reliable information on product colors or where he could override the colors, and not have to guess at which items were discounted.

Our questions to you are:

  • If Mr. Lee visits your website, would he be able to see everything?
  • Would he book mark you, for future reference and purchases?
  • Does your website use colours with enough contrast?

Case Study from: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Our Questions from: IceWeb Solutions’ Staff