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What is the Cost of NOT Designing for Accessibility? Part One

Are you designing your website for all your customers? Do you know how a color-blind person “sees” your site? Can they use your site as easily as someone who isn’t color-blind?

Approximately, 1 person in 76 (1.30%) or 3.5 million people in USA are color-blind.1 This means that some portion of 3.5 million people may not be able to use your site easily. This could potentially cost you money if those users cannot complete your checkout process on an e-commerce website or call customer service if they cannot figure out how to get off a page.

What is Color-Blindness?

Color-blindness is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colors. Most color vision problems are inherited and are present at birth. A person with color-blindness has trouble seeing red, green, blue, or mixtures of these colors. The most common type is red-green color-blindness, where red and green are seen as the same color.2

How Does A Color Blind Person See an Error?

A few years ago, I worked on a payroll application re-design project. I wireframed a lot of the task flows including errors following the Section 508 guidelines. When I transitioned into usability testing, I noticed that the secondary indicator I had included for errors was missing -- an orange field outline was the only error indication. In two separate usability tests, all users were confused by the screen. After each test, I asked the users whether they were color-blind or not. Not all of the users were color-blind, but those who were not were over the age of 40. (SEE Color-Blind Users.)

The following Toys "R" Us (Blind woman sues Toys "R" Us, alleging violation of federal disabilities act) screen is very similar to the Paycor screen I tested. In the Paycor usability tests, users could not tell which field was in error. Most users tried to correct the wrong field and became confused. They also did not notice the error message at the top of the screen. I believe that these users would call customer service for help if they encountered a screen like this.

Toysrus Error 

The following screen I found on the recent Big Lots e-commerce website. The error icon is a secondary indicator to the color outline that follows the 508 Compliance guidelines.

Big Lots Error

Is Color-Blindness Considered a Disability?

Although the issue of color vision has not often been addressed by the nation's appellate courts, courts that have examined the issue have consistently found that color vision deficits are not a disability under the ADA. The opinions take the position that color vision deficits do not substantially impair a person's ability to participate in a major life activity.3 (Is Color-Blindness a Disability for Employment Under the ADA.

Is Your Website Accessible?

Do you know if color-blinds users can use your website easily? Can a screen reader “read” all areas of your website? If you don’t know, it could cost you. In my next post on this topic, I am going to talk about websites that have been or are currently being sued for accessibility issues.


1 Mandal, Dr Ananya MD, Color Blindness Prevalence, Retrieved from: 8/2015
2 Morton, JL, What is Color-Blindness, Retrieved from:
3 Larson, Aaron, May 22, 2016, Is Color-Blindness a Disability for Employment Under the ADA, Retrieved from: