Home / ADA compliance / A Web Designer’s Complete Guide to Accessible Fonts
Danny Trichter
Author
Hina Ilyas
Researcher
#accessiblefontsize #adacompliantfonts
March 22, 2022
5 minutes

A Web Designer’s Complete Guide to Accessible Fonts

Design, navigation, and page layout are just a few of the factors that matter when it comes to creating an accessible site. However, the smaller details are important too. 

In fact, it’s sometimes the smaller details that end up compromising your website, making your business a target for ambulance chasing law firms. 

We’ve created this guide to the most accessible fonts to ensure that ADA compliance for websites is that much easier for you and your clients. 

Accessible Fonts Explained

Unfortunately, not all fonts were created with accessibility in mind, which means many websites are using fonts that are difficult for people with disabilities to process. Size, color, and contrast all matter when it comes to accessible fonts.

The wrong fonts don’t just affect those living with disabilities either, even those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia struggle with certain text. 

Using ADA compliant fonts during the web design process ensures that your content is easier to read, your site is faster, and that assistive technology such as screen readers functions as it should. 

When you only focus on the aesthetics of a font, you are isolating certain website visitors, which is exactly what the ADA advises against. 

Why Accessible Fonts Matter?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, and many other disability acts across the globe, aims to remove the online barriers that countless people encounter daily.  

Websites that fail to comply with web accessibility requirements could face compliance lawsuits and damage their brands for good. Not to mention all the customers you are potentially losing out on because your site is inaccessible to those living with disabilities. 

Now that you better understand why something as simple as a font is an essential consideration during the accessibility process, let’s get into the details of how you can comply.

What Makes a Font Accessible?

When choosing the right font for a website, there are a few important points to keep in mind.

Letter height & differences

The height and differences between capital and lowercase letters shouldn’t be the same.

Letter spacing

Make sure that the font you choose provides adequate spacing between letters and characters.

Similar characters

Pay attention to characters that might look the same when using certain fonts. o, e, a, and c is one example of this

Font weights

A thin weight on a smaller font size is not deemed to be accessible. Neither are narrow-width fonts

Font colors

Lastly, if you will be using fonts in different colors, it’s important to be aware of color compliance requirements – more on this further down.

It should also be noted that accessible fonts don’t end at your website. Any platforms or media that you use to communicate with your target audience requires accessible fonts, including images, emails, and PDF documents.

The Best Fonts for Accessibility

There are a number of popular fonts to choose from but not all of them are ideal for accessibility purposes. 

The most accessible fonts you can use on your site include:

• Calibri

• Times New Roman

• Tahoma

• Arial

• Helvetica

• Verdana

The following are also considered more accessible than others but are better suited to headers:

• Slab

• Arvo

• Rockwell

• Museo

Guidelines for Implementing Accessible Fonts

Choosing the right font is just the first step, you also need to know how to correctly apply the font on your site. 

Remember, just because you’ve chosen an accessible font doesn’t mean your text is automatically legible. For example, one visitor may require a larger font size than the next. 

Here are the guidelines to keep in mind when applying an accessible font to your website: 

Devices & Technology

The size of your text needs to work on an array of devices and with different assistive technologies. 

This includes smartphones, tablets, and desktop devices, with screen readers being one example of a common type of assistive technology. 

Visitors should also be able to increase or decrease the size of your text while leaving other elements intact. This is where font size requirements come into play. 

Font Size

It’s best to define font sizes in percentages, em, or rem. When defining font sizes in pixels or points, it’s very difficult for a user to only increase or decrease the text size without it affecting other elements such as images and your menu.

In terms of the minimum font size for accessibility, there is no hard and fast rule. However, it’s recommended that you start at 1 rem, which is the equivalent of 16px.

Font Color

Then there’s font color. It’s important not to rely on font color alone to convey meaning. Color also shouldn’t be used to interpret a visual element or encourage a user to take a specific action. 

If you must use font color to convey meaning, be sure to provide an alternative so that visitors with low color perception can also understand. Examples include bolding or underlining text instead. 

Lastly, it’s important to apply the correct color contrast ratio to your text. A minimum ratio of 4:5:1 is recommended for body text, while 3:1 is ideal for headings. 

Wrapping Up

While taking the time to apply accessible fonts to your site might take some additional time, it’s an essential part of the web design process. Not only are you creating a site that’s more accessible to all users, but you’re broadening your customer base and avoiding unnecessary and damaging lawsuits. 

Find out whether your website is accessible or not by conducting a test on Accessibility Checker

Want to learn more about WCAG and ADA compliance? Here are a few highly recommended blogs:

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