Many businesses are unaware of the issues which affect them because they don’t cater to the needs of their colour blind customers and employees.
Smart businesses realise marginal gains can be the difference between success and failure because it’s marginal gains which help a business to get ahead of its competitors. Successful businesses go out of their way to make the most of opportunities when new ideas come along or when they realise they have been missing a trick. Addressing the needs of colour blind customers is one way for smart businesses to make marginal gains because it’s an issue which has been overlooked by business for far too long.
Over the last few decades people with colour blindness have been forgotten in the race for progress in a digital world. Colour as a marketing tool has become ever more powerful, but your business’s main selling place, its website, won’t attract colour blind people if you don’t understand their needs. Instead it will probably turn them away.
Your business may be retail, aviation, financial services or manufacturing but whatever your business does, you will need to communicate with people effectively. Any information provided by colour alone can potentially alienate people with colour blindness, so your business needs to be clever if it wants to attract new customers and keep existing ones. It’s no good spending thousands of pounds creating a fancy financial report if 1 in 12 men can’t read your pie charts – those people will just go elsewhere.
To understand how your business can attract and retain colour blind customers start by reading our simple two-page document Creating a colour blind friendly retail experience. See also our Retailers page.
But businesses aren’t just about attracting new business – what about your employees?
Not only should businesses be more aware that a substantial amount of what they produce (their pitch for new business or their documents or products) may be difficult for colour blind people to fully access, but they also need to consider the potential implications of doing nothing, to ensure they aren’t discriminating either. Might your business be inadvertently discriminating against customers and your own employees (see Ordnance Survey example below)? For example, if your business relies on colour-coded spreadsheets for internal reporting, you may want to reconsider your internal reporting procedures. See Documents and Presentations below. Many issues have cheap and simple solutions which will help avoid expensive mistakes being made. Your HR team should be aware of Employment Tribunal caselaw which has found in favour of colour blind employees on grounds of indirect sexual discrimination arising from colour blindness problems.
Some industries are already making changes – see the Property Industry case study and read about how Ordnance Survey introduced colour-blind ‘friendy’ online mapping to ensure not only that their products are more accessible to the colour blind but also to ensure that they minimise their exposure to litigation on grounds of discrimination.
Seizing the initiative – don’t rush in and rely on colour blind staff to help your business on the cheap!
Our research at Colour Blind Awareness has shown a that a small number of businesses have already taken the initiative to instigate changes but, unlike Ordnance Survey (which invested in proper research and testing), many rely upon their own colour blind employees to advise them. Whilst this is a great start, it’s really necessary to point out here that there are several different types of colour blindness and a colour blind employee can only advise on their own type (unless they have had proper training). We know of some very expensive mistakes which have been made due to this lack of knowledge.
Designers (and web designers in particular) are often not aware of how inaccessible certain colour combinations can be to people with colour blindness, despite the internationally recognised AA and AAA rating standards advised by the World Wide Web Consortium. For more information click here. The Home page of this website is produced below in normal, red/green colour blind and blue colour blind vision to show how different the site can appear to those with colour vision deficiency. Great care has obviously been taken by us to ensure that as much of the website as possible is accessible to people with all types of colour vision deficiency, but even so many pages can never be fully accessible because colour blind people cannot appreciate the differences between the ‘normal’ images and the ‘colour blind’ images throughout the site.
Documents and Presentations
The document extract in these images shows that lack of awareness colour blindness can mean that important information produced within company websites, documentation, or presentations can be lost to people with even a mild form of colour blindness e.g. how can they work out which is the red and which is the orange segment of the pie chart?
In an interview with Colour Blind Awareness, the Property Director of a major retail plc who is mildly red/green colour blind, revealed that he is often unsure of information presented to him in some colour formats. Interestingly, when asked if he ever raised his hand during a presentation to ask for confirmation of information he found unclear (due to colour issues), he confirmed that he had never done this and the reason was that he is embarrassed about his colour problems and does not want to draw attention to himself. He admitted that he might occasionally decide to overlook some information rather than draw attention to himself. He also recognised that there must be situations where he is not even aware that he has missed out on important information.
Further information and advice
In addition to the wide ranging consultancy advice we provide to education and to major sporting organisations we also provide consultancy services to other businesses, including:-
Suitable colour choices for
– design and marketing materials
– corporate documentation
– educational products and toys
Company employment policy
For further information please contact Colour Blind Awareness by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or see the contact details in the About Us section.
Want to know more?
The Health and Safety Executive have produced guides for employers wishing to ascertain whether colour vision is critical or significant to the tasks they require their employees to undertake and the HSE can also advise employers how to ensure their premises are suitably coded to permit colour blind employees to work in a safe environment. See www.hse.gov.uk