From my point of view: A colour contrast analyst's perspective.

24/06/2016 Written by Mike Taylor (Senior Accessibility Analyst DAC.)


Welcome to the second post in our series of ‘my point of view’. The point of this series of posts is to give a true indication of how we believe society and the technological advances have improved our lives. Our post this week has some comments from our colour contrast and dyslexia analysts.

Growing up I found reading (especially reading aloud) and writing difficult, more so than my peers which lead to extra classes specifically for reading and writing. I was eventually screened as Dyslexic three years into secondary school and from then on allowed extra time in exams but I wasn’t aware of any software or equipment that could support me. Over the years of education and employment I’ve found a number of programmes and assistive technologies that support me in learning and performing my duties at work.

My dyslexia means I frequently make spelling and grammar mistakes and sometimes I think further ahead than I write which means I miss out letters, words and sometimes sentences. Word processing software such as Microsoft Word and Voice activation software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking helps a great deal when writing at length. Dictating with Dragon in a Word document eliminates that margin for error and allows me to organise my thoughts much faster and more accurately.

I’ve found Browse Aloud to be a great help when reading a webpage as I can often find it very difficult to concentrate. Browse Aloud will highlight the text and read it aloud to the user which makes processing the information much easier. Sadly this is only available on select websites but I believe every one could benefit from Browse Aloud especially those who experience a learning difficulty or for whom English is not their first language.

Read & Write Gold is software that features a number of useful tools that aid me in reading and report writing. For example Screen Masking which allows the user to view the screen through coloured overlays that can help with reading and Fact Mapper that helps me structure thoughts and ideas.

High Contrast Alternative Style Sheets can be very helpful if I encounter something of low colour contrast when visiting a website. They will often display the page as a yellow or white text on a black background which should make the text easier to read. This can mean however that the user doesn’t share the same user experience as others which is why I encourage maintaining a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 on the default pages. High Contrast Alternative Style Sheet icons or links are often presented as icons or links near the top of the page where they can be found and recognised easily.

Assistive technology has impacted the way I work and learn significantly and for the better. I believe however that more should be done to raise awareness so those who could benefit from it don’t struggle needlessly.