Many businesses are unaware of the issues which affect them because they aren’t catering 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 affects at least 5% of customers (and substantially more if the business is tailored towards males e.g. football/motorsport) yet 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? 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 simple and inexpensive 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 where you can also 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. As a minimum digital information, including websites, should be designed to the W3C AA rating to ensure people with colour blindness are not excluded from information.
Common problems with websites include
- invisible links
- inability to buy tickets because available/unavailable seating information is given in colour only
- inability to read text because of insufficient contrast between text and background colour e.g. white text on a yellow background
- inability to buy products due to lack of accessible information about the colour of the product, either due to information being given only in colour (and no explanatory text) or because of poor colour information e.g. a shirt is labelled ‘crimson’, ‘coral’, ‘olive’ ‘stone’ or any one of a myriad of colour names which mean nothing to people with CVD. Colour blind people want a simple colour name to describe an article. Not providing this can be the difference between a purchase being made or clicking off your website and not returning. See Why Menswear Needs a Note of Colour
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, for example, 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 the images below demonstrate how lack of awareness of 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 e.g. UEFA (see main Menu tabs at the top of the page) we also provide consultancy services to other businesses, including:-
- Suitable colour choices for
– design and marketing materials
– corporate documentation
– educational products and toys
- Discrimination issues
- 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. Please be aware that Colour Blind Awareness is a non-profit organisation (rather than a charity) and we are non-funded, therefore we are may need to charge a consultancy fee for any advice we provide.
Want to know more?
The following articles provide more information on the implications of colour blindness for designers of data visualisation, packaging and technology designs.
A Designer’s Life With Color Vision Deficiency is a great summary of what it’s like to live and work with colour blindness and as well as explaining how valuable colour blind people are in the workplace, there are some great tips and tools to help ensure your business is as accessible as possible to everyone with CVD whether your clients/customers or your employees.
Blog from Beacon Dodsworth on the frustrations of trying to understand inaccessible charts from the Covid-19 pandemic “Charts with lots of different-coloured wiggly lines tell us when we can expect to die. CB folk can’t work out what their chances are because so many of the lines are similar colours” and other great insights into how to ensure maps and data are more accessible Data Visualisation and Colour Blindness
The London School of Economics Impact blog on the importance of accessible design for data visualisation
Packaging Europe’s article on how Our Packaging is Failing Colour Blind Customers
The Wall Street Journal’s Colorblind Users Push Technology Designers To Use Signals Beyond Color
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