Accessibility problem in Word: don't rely on colour

Color pencil tips, Michael Lee
Today I struck an accessibility problem in an otherwise perfectly clear Word document. Though small, it was a healthy reminder that web content accessibility guidelines, as in WCAG 2.0, apply to everything we write on a computer.

Later this week I'm to present a couple of awards. I received the script, and because I want to read the judges' comments accurately on the night, I printed it. On paper, what else?

Only then did I notice the problem.

"MC part in black font. Reader's part in blue font (Rachel)."

Why is this a problem?

  1. First, I use a black-and-white-only printer most of the time, for good housewifely reasons. So the printed version was not entirely satisfactory, even though blue font appeared grey, very different from bold-black for the MC's words.
  2. Secondly, the printed script covers three pages, and the colour cue was only visible on page one.
  3. Thirdly, while I'm not colour blind, as a fully fledged older person with incipient cataracts, I don't have perfect sight. I regard my own responses as a valid test case for whether content (on the web or elsewhere) is distinguishable to millions of slightly disabled people.

Being a playwright, I instantly fixed the problem by inserting characters' names before each of their speeches— "MC:" or "Rachel:"

Let's keep this in proportion: this was a tiny problem that affected only me, and was easily fixed.

But it's a good reminder that content is not only web content, and many WCAG 2.0 accessibiilty guidelines have much wider applications. Bear them in mind also whenever you're writing any electronic documents.

Image via Michael Lee's blog, 2002

1 comment

Jul 23, 2011 • Posted by Kacie Teabo

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