Dear Sherry:

I love color, and use it any chance I get in my course shell and course materials. I just think vibrant colors and I were meant to be. Who doesn’t love colorful content to brighten up their day? 

Recently it was brought to my attention that I have become quite dependent on colors. In fact, so much that some students may have difficulty seeing or navigating my content. This is heartbreaking to me! For the love of color, can you help balance this love of mine?


Codependent on Color


Dear Codependent on Color:

One first great step in finding balance is to honestly assess your material. When designing your course, writing an article, or developing training material, take a moment to step back and consider if you are depending on color to convey a concept, denote a recurring item, or flag a requirement.

Being color dependent could be difficult for students that may be color-blind. In most cases it is reds and greens that a person will have a problem distinguishing between, however; other colors can be a problem as well. The key is not to base your content or directions solely on color. For example:

Bad: “Anything required to complete is noted in red, while extra credit items are noted in blue.”

Good: “Anything required to complete is noted in red with an asterisk * by it, while extra credit items are preceded by the letters ‘EC’ and noted in blue.

For more tips and examples see this short article from Penn State’s Accessibility page on Color Coding.

The same guidelines can apply to an image like a chart or graph that might be dependent on color. For these, you would either need to supply the appropriate alt text or add an additional explanation/description in the text of the article.

For more tips regarding graphs and charts see this short article from Penn State’s Accessibility page on Charts & Accessibility.