Recently a customer asked me if I knew of any tools or add-ons that could help color blind people better use the internet. I didn’t know of any offhand so I set out to find some – sure that the internet would be full of helpful programs and tips, right?
Wrong. I did find a lot of information out there but it was mainly split into 3 categories:
1. Information and statistics about color blindness e.g. it affects up to 10% of men (but only about 0.5% of women), there are different types and levels of severity so there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ method to help
2. Online tests to check if you are color blind (I had assumed most people would already know if they were but perhaps not)
3. Online simulations to show people who are not color blind what web pages and pictures etc look like to color blind people
All very interesting stuff but no tools to actually help those suffering from color blindness use the internet more easily – I guess I was hoping for a program that could easily change certain colors on a webpage to a different (user-defined) color to help with viewing. I have included below the few tips I did find that may hopefully prove of benefit to some – but I really hope that our readers can add a few more suggestions:
Un(clrd) – a free browsing add-on for Firefox and Google Chrome which provides a quick way to view webpages in black and white.
It removes all the color information from a website at the touch of a button, turning it into black and white. See my review here for details.
Colorblind Assistant – This is a small free program that instantly picks the color from the mouse pointer – it provides the general written name of a color, as well as other useful data such as RGB and hex (#) values which are used in many graphics programs.
The pixel data updates in real-time, so use with animations and movies is just as easy as with still images. Colorblind Assistant uses minimal memory and resources and is compatible with XP, Vista and Windows 7. See my review here for details.
Safe Browsing Software – Most safe search software relies on a traffic light system of warnings – red, amber and green. Unfortunately these include the colors most likely to be difficult for color blind users to distinguish – making it harder for them to avoid visiting malicious websites.
Web Of Trust (WOT) is our favorite safe browsing software (see our full review of WOT) but although it uses color coded warnings by default, it does have a color blind option that uses shapes instead – everything from the color schemes to the WOT rating icons to the whole symbol language has been redesigned to help.
To activate the color blind option in WOT:
- Click the WOT icon in the menu bar then click ‘Settings’ to open the WOT Settings page.
- Go to the Advanced page and select (tick) the option Enable color blind accessible version then press the Apply settings button.
WOT have a demo video of these features available here.
Convert Webpages To Better Reading View – Readability is a brilliant free add-on for web browsers which converts any web page article into a clean and comfortable text reading view – very like what you see on an e-book reader. You can also save articles for reading later on your Kindle, tablet or even mobile phone.
When viewing an article in Readability you can change its font and color, width, font size, hide images and convert links to numbered footnotes (can be of help if the links are color coded and hard to see). Although designed for use by everyone (I love it), the features of Readability will undoubtedly offer particular benefit for color blind users. See our full review of Readability.
Add Secure Site Padlock Icon To Firefox – Latest versions of Firefox use a Site Identity button (instead of a padlock icon) to notify users about the level of verified identification information for a website – its reliance on color coding (green and blue mean different things) may make it difficult for some color blind people to tell the difference between various levels of secure site.
However, it is easy to add back a padlock icon to newer versions of Firefox with the aptly named Padlock Icon add-on. See our full review of Padlock Icon.
Note: Google Chrome and Internet Explorer don’t have this problem as they still include a padlock icon by default.
Firefox – prevent webpages using their own colors – It is easy to change the colors that websites can use in Firefox. See our review here for details – if switching between the colors setting frequently, the AcsTrigger add-on can speed up the process with a one-click icon.
Customize Windows Task Manager Colors – If you’re a frequent user of Task Manager you may want to add options to it or change the colors of the Performance tab – by default it displays usage and usage history graphs in a particularly garish neon green.
It is possible to use a small program called Task Manager Modder to set custom colors for these grids and lines. See our full review of Modder.
ColorBlindExt – This was an add-on for Firefox (here) but sadly it is obsolete – it was last updated in 2007 and is only compatible with the seriously old and insecure Firefox 2. This was the type of add-on I was looking for as it processed images and text on the page according to the type of user’s color blindness and got excellent reviews from color blind users. It is disappointing that it is no longer supported – and that nobody else has taken up the baton…
It surprises me that a condition affecting at least 5% of men does not appear to have had more time and web development effort spent on it. Without being sexist, I am fairly sure that the majority of programmers are men so would have expected to find much more help for color blindness to feature in this review.
I hope that some of the tips above may prove helpful but, if you know of any others, please do let me (and other readers) know in the comments below – I will look to review them and update this article if required.