How to Choose Accessible Fonts?

Graphical picture of How to Choose Accessible Fonts

How to Choose Accessible Fonts?

When creating digital content, accessibility is an important factor to consider. The content must be available to people with disabilities to interact with it easily. One key element of this is the choice of font used. Choosing accessible fonts can be challenging due to the sheer number of options available, but it doesn’t have to be.

What are Accessible Fonts?

When talking about website accessibility or digital accessibility, you will realize that now every font is known to be accessible. Here’s when you need to make fonts accessible for enhanced readability.

Accessible fonts refer to typefaces that are easy to read and understand for individuals with visual impairments or reading difficulties. In other words, these fonts are designed to increase the legibility of text and make it easier for everyone to comprehend.

Font accessibility is an integral part of inclusive design, which aims to create products, services, and environments that all people can access without any discrimination. Some people with vision problems like poor eyesight or cognitive disabilities find it difficult to read content in inaccessible fonts. They need to have accessible fonts in order to consume content.

Factors that make a font accessible include:

  • Enough contrast between the letters and the background color for easy differentiation
  • Large font size for individuals with low vision or other visual impairments
  • Sufficient spacing between letters and lines for no overlap or confusion between characters

The Importance of Fonts for Web Accessibility

As a business owner, you might have a website where you expect people to come to and learn more about your business. Most of this information on the web is written and communicated through text. It is a great opportunity to grow your audience and customers as they learn about your business’s value.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, at least one billion of the global population has some kind of vision impairment. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that around 12 million people above the age of 40 in the United States live with vision impairments, including people with corrective vision problems. With this figure, you’re at risk of losing your success, growth, and reputation by not making efforts to include font accessibility into your web accessibility.

Moreover, the number of people who won’t be able to access your website due to the lack of accessible fonts doesn’t stop just at vision impairments. Individuals with dyslexia may also be sensitive to certain typefaces, making it difficult to read inaccessible fonts. Statistics note that almost 40 million US adults have dyslexia. So, by making font accessibility your priority, you ensure that you reach more population and also preserve your brand reputation.

Guidelines for Choosing Accessible Fonts

    1. The Fonts Need to be Widely Used

There’s no need to make custom fonts for an accessible website. Choosing from widely-used fonts like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, and Verdana can suffice as they have higher readability and are popular and widely accepted. By using a more popular font style, you can stay assured that the user experience for everyone reading will be smoother, and your readers can access your content the way you intended.

    1. The Fonts Need to be Easily Readable

According to WCAG Guidelines 1.4, fonts should be readable for people with disabilities. This means that font accessibility should be your core concern, and there should be a clear differentiation between the background color and text. Further, avoid using fonts with decorative strokes because they aren’t easy to read.

    1. Allow Users to Control the Font Size

Your website should allow your visitors to choose their font size instead of fixating on a specific size for easier readability.

    1. Allow Users to Zoom in on the Website

Another aspect of font accessibility includes zooming in on a website page. When a reader zooms in on the website, they should be able to read the text without anything overlapping. To ensure a reader can zoom in and out of the webpage efficiently without the help of assistive technology, you can include a slider to help them reduce or increase the text size. Make it accessible on every device for enhanced readability.

    1. The Fonts Should Have Effective Colors

Colors play a huge part in conveying information. For example, an error can be indicated with red color, disabled fields can be colored gray, and the presence of a hyperlink can be shown with a blue color. Also, have a good color contrast ratio of 3:1 for better accessibility and readability.

Which Fonts Should You Avoid?

Decorative fonts such as Brush Script, Curls, Impact, Papyrus, and Lobster are lesser accessible and should be avoided when conveying information because:
  • They are difficult to comprehend/li>
  • They do not separate characters
  • They look like shapes
  • They may slow down the reader’s reading speed

What Font Size is Accessible?

While the font style determines the readability factor, the size of your fonts should not be ignored. Some users might need a relatively smaller or larger font size to consume content, and when you don’t use the accurate size, the readability is compromised.
Here is the acceptable font size according to WCAG:

WCAG Compliant Font Size

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) forbids discrimination against people with disabilities and needs you to follow certain requirements for accessibility. It doesn’t explicitly mention the required font size, but there have been some accepted standards over the years for web design.

According to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), an internationally accepted standard, font accessibility has been a major concern. You should ensure that the website users can make the text 200% larger. This applies to web designs and websites and may not include visual communication mediums like brochures, reports, and infographics.

An informal standard of 16px should be maintained to make the fonts accessible and should not be lower than 12px.

What are the Accessible Font Types?

There has been some debate on which font style is readable, as accessibility is different for everyone. For example, people with low vision would want larger text, while individuals with low field vision and high clarity would prefer smaller texts.
Font styles from the font families of serif and sans serif are widely used and acceptable in terms of accessibility and readability.
  • Serif: The top and bottom of serif fonts have tiny decorative edges called serifs. While these are generally readable, some serif fonts are not, depending on their size. Generally, serif fonts in smaller sizes are not legible. Hence, you can find them mostly used for headings where the font size is larger.
  • Sans serif: These fonts do not have the tiny embellishment on their top and bottom – hence they have the ‘sans’ in their name. They are slightly more readable than serif fonts since they’re less decorative.

What are Some of the Most Recommended Accessible Fonts?

For a font to pass the accessibility test, it needs to have a certain legibility that includes proper thickness, width, and height, along with its availability. It’s considered best to use fonts that are popular as well as highly used.

Here’s a list of the best fonts for accessibility:
  • Tahoma (sans serif)
  • Georgia (sans serif)
  • Verdana (sans serif)
  • Arial (sans serif)
  • Book Antiqua (serif)
  • Palatino (serif)
  • Lucida Sans (Windows – sans serif) / Lucida Grande (Mac – sans serif)
  • Helvetica (sans serif)

Conclusion

Accessible fonts play an important part in web designing and are a critical element in designing documents and websites. With thoughtful consideration and research, you can easily pick the right font that meets a range of accessibility standards while still being aesthetically pleasing. Don’t forget to test your chosen font with users who have different types of disabilities, and make sure that you consider how it will render in various browsers and devices.

Remember that legibility, size and style all come into play when selecting an accessible font. Following these tips will help ensure your website is usable and accessible for all audiences, regardless of their abilities and disabilities.

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Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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