Veronica With Four Eyes

Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision

On several of my favorite assistive technology devices and software applications, there are several options for choosing high contrast color schemes with low vision. While I tend to rotate between the same color schemes depending on different factors, I still like to look at all of the high contrast color schemes when checking out a new device or application to see how different documents or displays look with the different color filters. Here are my tips for choosing high contrast color schemes with low vision and learning how they are used.

Why are high contrast color schemes important?

High contrast color schemes allow users to be able to see information clearly and to read without putting additional strain on their eyes. While this is important for designing a product or tool for any audience, it is especially important for audiences that have people with low vision, as they may have more difficulty reading information if it is not shown with a high contrast color scheme.

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Examples of high contrast color schemes

What colors are the best for visually impaired users? Some of the most popular high contrast color combinations and color schemes I see within video magnifiers and high contrast displays include:

  • White text on black background
  • Black text on yellow background
  • Yellow text on black background
  • Green text on black background
  • Yellow text on blue background
  • Blue text on yellow background
  • Grayscale display

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Bad color schemes

Some examples of color combinations that do not make good high-contrast color schemes include:

  • Yellow background with green text
  • Black background with gray text
  • Red background with blue text
  • White background with gray text

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Factors that can influence choosing a high contrast color scheme

Some examples of factors that can influence what high contrast color scheme I choose include:

  • My eye condition- I have more difficulty seeing grayscale displays than colored ones
  • Overhead/task lighting and shadows that may be cast on the page
  • My eye fatigue level can impact my ability to look at bright colored backgrounds
  • What materials I am working with
  • How important it is to look at the colors of the original object

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Light background or dark background?

One of the questions I commonly get is whether someone should choose to use a light colored background with dark text, or a dark colored background with light text. My personal preference is to use a dark colored background with light colored text, as I have photosensitivity and don’t like bright lights. At my internship, I preferred to use a high contrast theme with a black background and yellow or green text, as I found this was the easiest to work with.

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Is dark mode the same as high contrast color schemes?

I have dark mode enabled on my Android phone by default, so that all of my apps will use a dark background with light text. However, some apps can be disorienting in dark mode or not have proper contrast settings enabled, so I use them in light mode. I’m hoping that as dark mode becomes more widespread, more apps will look better in dark mode and have proper high contrast displays. However, dark mode is not a total replacement for a high contrast display.

Enabling high-contrast color schemes with popular technology

Did you know that it is surprisingly easy to enable high-contrast color schemes with popular technology? Here are some examples.

Windows

Windows has a high contrast theme available that users can customize to their individual needs. I have an entire post about how to enable high contrast in Windows linked below.

iOS/iPad OS

Within Accessibility settings, users can go to the “Display & Text Size” menu and enable options to reduce transparency, increase contrast, and use the Smart Invert tool to invert the display of their screen.

Macintosh computers

Macintosh computers also support Smart Invert, which can be enabled by going to “system preferences”, clicking on “accessibility” and then “display”, and checking the box that says “invert colors.” Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut command-option-control-8

Android phones

Within Display settings, users can turn on dark mode, and pair this with the high-contrast font option in the Accessibility settings menu.

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My most-used color schemes

My most used high-contrast color schemes include:

  • Black background with yellow text for my computer or video magnifiers
  • Light yellow background with black text for paper
  • Black background with white text for some video magnifiers

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Final thoughts

I love having access to so many different high-contrast color schemes, and am glad to see more applications and companies incorporating high-contrast designs into their products. I hope this post on common high-contrast color schemes is helpful for others wondering how and why I use high contrast displays with low vision!

Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision. Examples of good high contrast color schemes for low vision and why they are important, plus my favorite color schemes



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