Accessibility has both a blessing and a curse in the form of comprehensive lists like WCAG.

The blessing is that we have a tool that details several aspects of accessibility that we wouldn’t think of otherwise along with specific recommendations on how to address them, including some check tools to automatically validate the technical implementation of some of them.

And the curse is that we can have a false impression this means that by following the guidelines or using some of the validation tools we already addressed any accessibility concern, which is not true.

There are some unavoidable problems with approaching accessibility as an issue with a simple solution:

  • Not every accessibility solution is technical or can be validated using automated tools. Something so simple as deciding if an image alternative description — the alt attribute — is necessary, or what should it contain, is a nuanced problem which requires having an opinion on it.
  • Not every accessibility recommendation is clear in how it should be applied. There is a recommendation for avoiding bright contrasting colours, as they can be distracting, particularly for people on the autism spectrum. But there are no rigid or specific guidelines on how to evaluate when a colour is bright or contrasting enough to be distracting, as it also would affect different autistic people differently. The only common recommendation is usually to avoid bright red and yellow as the more overstimulating — or high arousal — colours.
  • Some accessibility recommendations are contradictory. Although the intent on any of them is clear and can be balanced, going on an extreme on any of them can cause other problems for other types of users. Adding some customisation options for the user to choose from is a great asset, but adding more buttons or controls also increases the complexity which can make it harder for people with different cognitive abilities.

So when I decided to make some changes to the colour palette of the NewDev theme to change the aggressively bright colours it uses for calmer alternatives, I had no clear-cut recommendation, guide or tool to rely on.

That’s how it works for design most of the time, so I consulted with people around me who share my concern about accessibility, made some choices, and hope for the best. It won’t be until I roll out these changes and real users can test them that I finally would have useful feedback.

Anyhow, I will include some screenshots of the design in case some of you have any feedback on it. And you can always make recommendations, asks or requests on the theme’s Github page.

Screenshot of the homepage before and after the change of colours.
Screenshot of a blog post and after the change of colours.
Screenshot of the about me page before and after the change of colours.