Would you create a communication piece that could not be fully understood by about 1 in 20 people? Have you ever thought about your color choices when developing resources? The way we use colors and color combinations can determine the accessibility of communications for people with color blindness. Here is how you can make your pieces more accessible.

Color blindness

Color blindness, or color vision deficiency, is usually diagnosed in childhood and is incredibly common.1 Globally, there are estimated to be approximately 300 million people with color blindness.1 Most cases of color blindness are hereditary; however, deficiencies in color vision can also develop due to health conditions or medications.2

The most common type is red-green color blindness, which is characterized by difficulties distinguishing between reds, oranges, yellows, browns, greens, and purples. Rarer types include blue-yellow color blindness, which involves difficulties distinguishing between blues, greens, and yellows, and monochromacy, which describes people who see no color.1–3

Colorful communication

With a proportion of a potential audience experiencing color blindness, and unable to access materials featuring certain color schemes, we should try to ensure our materials are as user-friendly as possible. Unconsidered color scheme choices can alienate, irritate, and inadvertently exclude people with color blindness.1 In addition, the UK Government Equalities Office recognizes color blindness as a disability, and therefore fair adjustments should be made to communication pieces to ensure clear access to medical information for all.1

So, in a world where green means go and red means no, which two simple steps can we take to ensure our communications are as accessible as possible for those with color blindness?

STEP 1: Be conscious when choosing colors1,4

  1. Favor contrasting colors over variants of shades or tones
  2. Avoid color schemes with a heavy reliance on reds, browns, and greens
  3. Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and background colors
  4. Consider increasing the contrast on images to accentuate the differences between colors
  5. Look to see if the software being used has accessible color schemes (available on Slack, a messaging program/app designed for workplaces, for instance)
  6. Use the color-blind filters on Adobe Photoshop or similar software (View Proof Setup Color Blindness Protanopia-type/Color Blindness — Deuteranopia-type) to see your work through the eyes of someone with color blindness

STEP 2: Ask yourself: “Could I understand this communication if the colors were removed?”1

  1. Use text labels, in addition to colors, for ease of identification
  2. Use different shapes, patterns, or line types to differentiate between variables on graphs and charts
  3. Avoid referring solely to colors when describing a graph/chart in the text. In particular, try to avoid referring to colors as descriptive shades, e.g. fuchsia, teal, olive

Improving accessibility in healthcare communications

So, will you consider color choices in your communications moving forward? As both individuals and organizations, we have a duty of care to provide accurate and accessible healthcare information to ensure equity and inclusion. If we do not consider making these adjustments moving forward, it is likely that there will be a proportion of audiences who will not be able to entirely access the information, thus resulting in a less impactful and engaging piece of healthcare communication.

By considering and implementing some or all of the strategies above, we can create colorful healthcare communications that are accessible for everyone. This way we ensure that people with color blindness can fully engage with potentially life-changing healthcare communications.


  1. Colour Blind Awareness. Living with colour vision deficiency. Available from: https://www.colourblindawareness.org/colour-blindness/living-with-colour-vision-deficiency/Accessed 11 May 2022.
  2. National Health Service (NHS). Colour vision deficiency. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colour-vision-deficiency/ Accessed 11 May 2022.
  3. National Eye Institute. Types of color blindness. Available from: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/color-blindness/types-color-blindness. Accessed 11 May 2022.
  4. Tuchkov I. Color blindness: how to design an accessible user interface. Available from: https://uxdesign.cc/color-blin.... Accessed 11 May 2022.