Color Blindness and TWing?

Subject: Color Blindness and TWing?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, David Loveless <daveloveless -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2006 16:21:53 -0400

David Loveless wondered: <<As a color blind person, I am highly aware of my color selections in my documentation and UI designs. However, I notice that many non-color blind people are sometimes completely unaware of the issues we face.>>

You might want to look into the resources provided by STC's AccessAbility SIG (; they have a bunch of good stuff there, and may be able to provide statistics and a resource when you're evangelizing this problem.

<<1. How aware are you of color blindness?>>

Enough to know that there are several kinds beyond red-green, that women are affected less often than men, and to do my best to rely on at least two visual parameters rather than color alone when I'm presenting visual information. For example, I routinely print color graphics in greyscale to confirm that differences are still visible when the color (hue) disappears, and always underline hyperlinks to ensure that the underline serves as a visual cue even if the color information doesn't help.

I also do my damnedest to remember to provide Alt tags for online images, and succeed more often than not now that Dreamweaver reminds me to type this information when I insert a graphic.

I do, however, retain the color information for those who can benefit from it. Accessible design does not necessarily mean "lowest common denominator". It means recognizing that some people do have different needs.

<<2. How much do you understand about color blindness (causes, misconceptions, results)?>>

A smattering. For obvious reasons, I'm not sure what misconceptions I may have. Why don't you summarize these for us (perhaps as a techwr-l poll or as a true/false quiz) so I (we) can subject my (our) own impressions to a (private <g>) reality check?

<<3. How much of an affect and what affects do you believe color blindness has on your audience.>>

I was alerted to the problem at a very early age when I saw the movie _The Andromeda Strain_. So I'm quite aware that the consequences can be very serious--indeed, potentially life-threatening. (Though Crichton probably blew it in that specific case. The scientist would probably have been aware of their own color blindness and taken appropriate precautions when screening the data. Or is that a misconception? Was color blindness diagnosed less often several decades ago?)

<<5. (This one is just for my own kicks and giggles) Are you or a technical communicator you know color blind?>>

I'm not, but I worked with a senior researcher many years ago who was colorblind. Roy had the most <ahem> "interesting" choices of wardrobe colors, and it was several years before I discovered that he was red-green color blind and allowed his wife to choose his colors for him. It wasn't at all clear whether she was gifted with an unusual color sense herself, whether he collaborated in the choice and thus chose colors that made sense to him too, or whether his colleagues were being treated to an interesting display of marital revenge. <g>

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Color Blindness and TWing: From: David Loveless

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