Colors in Word

Don’t rely on color alone to convey meaning. Also, make sure you have good contrast between text and background.

Why Colors Matter

Color blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. If you refer to something only by its color, you may have students who can’t see what you mean. Students who are blind or have low vision may not see your colors at all.

Light text on a light background can be a strain for anyone to read. So can dark text on a darker background. Students with conditions such as glaucoma and cataract may see the world through a haze. That makes it even harder for them to read text that doesn’t stand out from its background.

Provide Alternatives to Color

Suppose your syllabus uses red text for assignments due on Wednesdays and green text for assignments due on Fridays. It may be hard for a student who’s blind or color blind to see the difference.

There is nothing wrong with using colors. But provide a way for students to get the same understanding in another way. In the example, you could add “Due Wednesday” or “Due Friday” to each assignment. Make graphs with different textures or line styles. They’ll make sense to students who are color blind. A good description can make a chart more meaningful to everyone.

Ensure Good Contrast

Black and white pages will give you the highest and safest contrast. But there is no reason to shy away from colors. Just make sure they have enough contrast to meet accessibility standards. The accessibility checker in Word will flag text that has too little contrast, but only if you have a current version of Word.

Colour Contrast Analyser

The Paciello Group’s Colour Contrast Analyser1 is a free application for Windows and Mac. It will tell you if your text has enough contrast to meet WACG 2.02 standards. It works on images, text, and any color on your screen. It provides much more detail than Word’s accessibility checker.

Learn more on the Contrast Checkers page.


1. Download the Paciello Group’s Colour Contrast Analyser from

2. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are international standards from the World Wide Web Consortium.