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What Is An ADA Compliance Color Checker?

Apr 1, 2024

Does your website’s color scheme comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? 

The way you use color can have an enormous impact on your users — including, but not limited to, users with disabilities. Color contrast is especially important: Low-contrast text is difficult to read, and for people with color vision deficiency (CVD) or low vision, it might be completely illegible. 

Here’s what you need to know to use color checker tools to improve compliance with the ADA and other digital accessibility laws.

The ADA’s Requirements for Color Contrast Accessibility

The ADA doesn’t contain strict requirements for color contrast — in fact, it doesn’t outline any specific technical standards for websites. It simply requires reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in “places of public accommodation,” which includes websites.

While businesses have some discretion in determining what qualifies as “reasonable accommodations,” there are established standards: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The Justice Department recommends using WCAG to test content for accessibility (and for ADA compliance).

WCAG has a few requirements for color contrast ratio, defined as the difference in luminance (light) between text and its background. If you’re using an ADA compliance color checker, it’s probably testing your website for conformance with WCAG’s Level AA (read about the differences between WCAG conformance levels). 

According to WCAG:

  • Normal text (including images of text) must meet a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. 
  • Large text (18 point or larger, or 14 point larger or bold) must meet a contrast ratio of at least 3:1. 

Remember, these are the minimum requirements. You’re certainly free to use higher contrast, and doing so may be beneficial for your readers.

WCAG also includes an “enhanced" contrast requirement, which states that for optimal readability, text should maintain a 7:1 contrast ratio. This isn’t necessary for meeting a basic level of accessibility — but if you can meet or exceed the 7:1 threshold, it’s helpful to do so.

Related: WCAG Level AAA Success Criteria Are Strict, But They're Still Worth Your Attention.

Using the a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator to Improve Digital Compliance

Meeting WCAG’s requirements isn’t especially difficult. If your website consists of black text on a white background, you’re already in conformance. Otherwise, you’ll simply need to find the contrast ratio for your text (and images of text) and make adjustments if you’re below the thresholds. 

That’s where color checker tools come into play. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers the a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator, a free tool that compares content against WCAG.

You can use the Color Contrast Accessibility Validator to perform two basic tests:

  • Compare color-pairs. Enter the hexadecimal codes (or select the colors) of your background and your text. The tool will provide the color contrast ratio and a “pass" or “fail" result for WCAG conformance.
  • Enter a URL. The tool will analyze the web page and identify any text that fails to meet WCAG. 

AudioEye offers a similar tool, the Color Contrast Checker, which offers the same functionality. The AudioEye digital accessibility platform also includes a contrast checker, along with other tools for finding (and in some cases, automatically remediating) common accessibility issues. 

While we’re partial towards our color contrast tools, you can use any contrast checker to validate your content. Just make sure that the tool uses WCAG’s contrast requirements as its basis.

Finally, remember that automated tools generally cannot analyze text embedded in images — you should avoid using images of text wherever possible. If you must use images of text, be sure to check them manually. 

Related: Dark Mode Can Improve Text Readability — But Not for Everyone.

Building Your Strategy for ADA Digital Compliance

If you’re new to digital accessibility, color contrast compliance is a great place to start. It’s one of the most common accessibility barriers, and it’s fairly easy to fix (even if you’re not a professional designer).

However, to build a truly accessible experience, you’ll need to test your content against all WCAG Level A/AA requirements. To begin building your strategy, start with a free graded web accessibility report or send us a message. 

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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