Making Text Accessible

demonstrating high contrast between light and dark colors and low contrast between similar colors
When thinking about making text accessible, persons with visual disabilities come to mind.  Most of us are aware of the basic concepts of color and contrast that help people with partial sight and color deficiencies.
  1. Highest possible contrast between text color and background color1
  2. Avoid certain color combinations such as red & black, red & green, and blue & yellow2
  3. Do not use color alone to convey meaning

Screen Readers

But, what about people who are blind?  They typically use screen readers to use the computer.3  
  • Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or low vision users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
  • A screen reader is the interface between the computer's operating system, its applications, and the user.
  • The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard or braille display to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen.
  • A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer's cursor or focused item, and so on.

Watch the short video (1:19) below to get an idea of how a screen reader works on a web site.  (Take advantage of the closed captioning to better understand the synthesized speech.)

This video (2:31) demonstrates how a screen reader reads a Microsoft Word document.

1"Effective Color Contrast." Lighthouse International. 2014. Web. 11 Nov 2014. <>.
2"Color Blindness/Color Deficient Vision." AccessAbility: Accessibility and Usability at Penn State. PennState. 2002-2014. Web. 11 Nov 2014. <>.
3"Screen Readers." AFB. American Foundation for the Blind. 2014. Web. 11 Nov 2014. <>.

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