Colorblind Users WAS: blue link special

Subject: Colorblind Users WAS: blue link special
From: "David Loveless" <daveloveless -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2006 14:24:10 -0600

So I'll admit right off the bat that this is probably very late to add
much to the discussion. Don't blame me for a holiday weekend (and a
great one it was).

Paul pointed out the colorblind user when creating links. He has a
very valid point that I hope wasn't missed in the aftermath. As the
resident colorblind techwr-ler, I'll admit that I constantly struggle
with online and printed documentation that relies on color. Not
meaning to be offensive, but... isn't it at least a little foolish not
to design friendly documentation for a relatively large population?

Conservative estimates (check any colorblind site for numbers) put the
number of colorblind men at 8% to 20%. I find 12% to be the most
common and, in my opinion, accurate estimate. For some of us, that
might be a few thousand people. For others, that might be millions
upon millions. As you may know, the number of color blind women is
incredibly small. This is due to genetics.

To illustrate some of the problems... I cannot tell the difference
between the red and green squigglies in Word to save my life. No way.
I also used to work for a group that documented language learning
software for a group of students. We had an audience of some 35,000
students every year and around 95% were males. That's about 4,000
people annually who could not use our color insensitive product. I've
also seen fellow colorblind users run their mouse across each line of
text waiting for their icon to change shape and indicate a link. There
are people out there who can't see links and other "nifty" tricks of
the trade. In some situations, I'm one of them. I went for a very long
time without knowing that that language software I worked on marked
incorrect answers with a red X and correct answers with a green
checkmark. A very long time. And I never would have known if I hadn't
brought up that design flaw to a co-worker.

I'm not vocal about much when it comes to our profession, but I will
say this. For a group of people who claim to be the advocates of the
user, we have largely failed the colorblind population. And I say that
from experience. It doesn't take much to design colorblind friendly
docs, and in many situations it may even be required by law (all work
for the Feds requires it).

If you want some help on becoming more aware, I recommend the
Wikipedia site on colorblindness. It provides a lot of links to other
relative sites as well.

Oh, and please remember that colorblindness is a disability. Yes, it
is not as noticeable as many other disabilities, but it is a
disability and as such requires consideration. We don't require much,
just some careful color selection.

Thanks for the awareness, Paul. It helps to have a friendly voice for
the colorblind minority.

If you have any questions about colorblindness, please don't hesitate
to ask. Most colorblind people don't mind the questions as long as it
isn't that insensitive "What color is this?" question. I heard one
colorblind person describe that as asking a mentally handicapped
person what's on their mind. Yeah... not funny. Fortunately, I refuse
to be that sensitive. Life's too short.

Now excuse me, I've got to go put on my mismatched socks. Could you
hand me my red tie? It's green you say? Hmmmm... who knew?

Dave "dressed like a rainbow on any given day of the week"

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