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Big Fonts, Bright Text: friend or foe?

From: Leonard R. Kasday <kasday@acm.org>
Date: Tue, 01 Jun 1999 10:46:14 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Some web sites try to accommodate people with low vision by presenting web
pages  with large font and reverse contrast (e.g. white text on black

Does this accommodation help or is it actually a problem?

It's not in the web access guidelines.  If anything, the guidelines
implicitly discourage it by recommending use of style sheets instead of the
<FONT> tag or background attribute that's generally utilized in such pages.

Personally, I think this sort of accommodation does more harm than good.

For example, there's an optimum font size for person with low vision.  If
it gets too large, it cuts reading speed.  So if a person with low vision
is already using a screen magnifier set to optimize print size, and the
page has large font, it seems to me it would make it larger than optimum,
and slow the person down. The same problem applies if the person has set
their default font size to be large.

Or, if the person is already using reverse contrast, does a white on black
page could come up black on white, defeating the reverse contrast.  (Screen
magnifiers may be smart enough to avoid this... they could be in
principle... do they?)

I'm also concerned about people who aren't using magnification programs or
who don't yet know how to set colors and font sizes in their browsers.  Is
it really a good idea to give them a special page with big font and reverse
contrast instead of informing them how to control font size and color to
make all pages more readable?

In addition, what about people with motor disabilities?  The bigger the
font, the more they have to scroll up and down to read the page.

My final concern is that such pages give the impression that you have to
make pages look a particular way to be accessible.

Please tell me if I'm on the mark here, or am I overlooking something?


Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
Universal Design Engineer, Institute on Disabilities/UAP, and
Adjunct Professor, Electrical Engineering
Temple University

Ritter Hall Annex, Room 423, Philadelphia, PA 19122
(215} 204-2247 (voice)
(800) 750-7428 (TTY)
Received on Tuesday, 1 June 1999 10:44:10 UTC

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