Most businesses are completely unaware of the issues which can affect them arising from the high incidence of colour blind people (especially men, 8%) in the population.
Not only must businesses become more aware that a substantial amount of what they produce (documents, goods for sale, websites etc.) can be difficult for colour blind people to fully access, but they should also be aware of the need to improve accessibility to products and services because they may find themselves victims of litigation on the grounds of discrimination by customers (see Ordnance Survey example below) or even their own employees. Employment Tribunal caselaw already exists which has found in favour of colour blind employees, employers having been found guilty of indirect sex discrimination because they have not taken proper account of their employee’s colour vision deficiency.
Businesses are very gradually becoming aware of the need to account for colour blind people and some industries are starting to make changes to ensure information is more accessible to them. Some elements of the property industry have begun to instigate colour-blind friendly changes but despite the fact that this is an industry which relies heavily on colour for much of its day-to-day work e.g. coloured maps and plans, Land Registry information, marketing brochures, presentations, reports and research documents the vast majority of those working in property have no idea that most of what they produce cannot be fully accessed by 12% of men.
Click here to visit our Press page and read a 2-week special feature on colour blindness in the leading property industry magazine, Estates Gazette.
As the article in Estates Gazette highlights, Ordnance Survey has recently 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.
Our research at Colour Blind Awareness has shown a that a small number of businesses have already taken the initiative and sought to instigate changes to account for the colour blind but, unlike Ordnace Survey (which invested in proper research and testing), most have thought it sufficient to rely upon their own colour blind employees to advise them. Whilst this is a great start and we applaud these businesses for their forethought, it is necessary to point out here that there are several different types of colour blindness and a single colour blind employee will not have any experience or comprehension of the issues causes by colour blind deficiencies which are different to his own. In our opinion only those people with colour normal vision and with practical experience of all types of colour vision deficiencies will be able to properly advise businesses on suitable changes which can be made to products etc. to ensure they are fully colour blind ‘compliant’.
Below are examples of problems experienced by colour blind people in everyday business situations.
Documents and Presentations
The document extract below shows that lack of awareness of the needs of the colour blind 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 a recent interview with Colour Blind Awareness, the Property Director of Debenhams 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.
Surely no business would want any of its intended target market to be unnecessarily excluded from any of the information it wishes to convey, yet hardly any businesses check what they produce to ensure that all of the information can be accessed by colour blind people. In some markets, for example building trade outlets where most customers are male, almost 8% of the target market can miss vital information such as product details or special offers purely as a result of ignorance of colour blindness on the part of the marketing team.
An example of packaging issues which can arise for colour blind people is the current trend of supermarkets to mark up ready meals with a ‘traffic light’ system to advise customers of the levels of fat, salt, carbohydrate etc. contained within a specific product. Most choose to mark high levels of each component in red, medium levels in orange and low levels in green, so that a ‘wheel’ of colour is produced designed to show at a glance the average levels of each component within the product. Such a colour wheel is practically worthless to many colour blind people who are likely to ‘see’ all the colours of the wheel as the same colour.
Colour blind people need to rely upon written product information to decide whether or not the product is for them, so the ‘at a glance’ element of this kind of product marking is useless for about 4.5% of the people looking at the product (assuming 50% of the customers are male and 50% female).
Usually written product information is also included on the packaging and the colour blind may need to seek this out, but this example demonstrates how little care is generally taken by industry to maximise the exposure of their products to the whole of their intended market. By giving due consideration to the needs of the colour blind, especially in areas of the retail sector where products are heavily biased towards males, retailers could improve sales with the proper colour blind-friendly marketing advice.
Rather than producing a sale ticket in red and white, a marketing team should consider other colours. For example, a sale ticket in red and yellow (or blue) will be more obvious to the colour blind because yellow and blue are true colours which stand out to those with deficient red/green colour vision. The images below show on the left (main picture) a standard way of advertising a shop sale by the use of large red and white ‘sale’ signage. To those with normal colour vision the red sale sign is very visible but the inset image demonstrates how this sale sign appears to around 8% of men i.e. the red and white sale sign does not ‘jump out’ to them at all. Contrast this image with the blue and yellow sale signage shown in the image on the right. The inset again shows the image as a colour blind person would see the blue and yellow signage and clearly demonstrates that whether you have normal colour vision or red/green colour blindness the yellow and blue sale sign is much more effective than the red and white sign because everyone, whether colour blind or not, can see it easily.
Red Sales Ticket
Yellow & Blue Sales Ticket
Product packaging and placement
The images below show how difficult it is for the colour blind to pick out products on supermarket shelves by colour alone and they also demonstrate how much of an impact blue and yellow can have on the buying choices of the colour blind. As a colour blind person, would you automatically be drawn to the blue product on the middle of the top shelf on the right simply because you can easily identify it? Would it then become your product of choice just because you know where it can be found on the shelf?
Designers (and web designers in particular) are often not aware of how effective their designs are at reaching the whole of their client’s intended market (i.e. including colour blind people). 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.
Further information and advice
In addition to our charitable activities we are also able to offer consultancy services to businesses to assist companies to become fully colour blind aware 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