Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Use of Color:
Understanding SC 1.4.1

1.4.1 Use of Color: Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. (Level A)

Note 1: This Success Criterion addresses color perception specifically. Other forms of perception are covered in Guideline 1.3.

Note 2: Programmatic access to color and other visual presentation coding is covered in Guideline 1.3.

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure that all users can access information that is conveyed by color differences, that is, by the use of color where each color has a meaning assigned to it. If the information is conveyed through color differences in an image (or other non-text format), the color may not be seen by users with color deficiencies. In this case, providing the information conveyed with color through another visual means ensures users who cannot see color can still perceive the information.

Color is an important asset in design of Web content, enhancing its aesthetic appeal, its usability, and its accessibility. However, some users have difficulty perceiving color. People with partial sight often experience limited color vision, and many older users do not see color well. In addition, people using text-only, limited-color or monochrome displays and browsers will be unable to access information that is presented only in color.

Examples of information conveyed by color differences: “required fields are red", “error is shown in red", and “Mary's sales are in red, Tom's are in blue".

Note: This should not in any way discourage the use of color on a page, or even color coding if it is redundant with other visual indication.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 1.4.1:

  • Users with partial sight often experience limited color vision.

  • Some older users may not be able to see color well.

  • Users who have color-blindness benefit when information conveyed by color is available in other visual ways.

  • People using text-only, limited color, or monochrome displays may be unable to access color-dependent information.

Examples of Success Criterion 1.4.1

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 1.4.1 - Use of Color

Each numbered item in this section represents a technique or combination of techniques that the WCAG Working Group deems sufficient for meeting this Success Criterion. The techniques listed only satisfy the Success Criterion if all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements have been met.

Sufficient Techniques

Instructions: Select the situation below that matches your content. Each situation includes techniques or combinations of techniques that are known and documented to be sufficient for that situation.

Situation A: If the color of particular words is used to indicate information:

  1. G14: Ensuring that information conveyed by color differences is also available in text

  2. G122: Including a text cue whenever color cues are used

  3. Ensuring that when text color differences are used to convey information, the text style is visually differentiated without color differences (future link)

  4. Conveying all information in text that is conveyed by color differences (future link)

Situation B: If color is used within an image to convey information:

  1. G111: Using color and pattern

  2. G14: Ensuring that information conveyed by color differences is also available in text

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 1.4.1

Although not required for conformance, the following additional techniques should be considered in order to make content more accessible. Not all techniques can be used or would be effective in all situations.

Failures for SC 1.4.1

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 1.4.1 by the WCAG Working Group.