CIOs Start To Realize That They Have A Colorblind Problem

Company web sites have to be made easier for colorblind users
Company web sites have to be made easier for colorblind users

Image Credit: Bryan McDonald

As the CIO, you have the responsibility to make sure that the company’s technology is made available to everyone. This can be fairly easy to do when you are considering the needs of your workers. However, things can start to get a bit trickier when you have to take into account all of the firm’s customers and the people that you do business with. This issue can come to light when you realize that the company’s website may not be usable by people who are colorblind.

The World Of Accessible Design

Accessible design is a process that considers the additional needs of disabled people. CIOs need to be aware that accessibility considerations are a question of compliance for U.S. companies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Drafted to protect disabled citizens in the physical world, the law has been used in court to argue for accessible technology.

The person with the CIO job needs to realize that colorblind users do not require a screen reader to access a website, they can miss information because of the ways designers deploy color. Colorblind people struggle to discern basic color-coded information in many experiences with technology, from reading maps online to figuring out whether the LEDs on a Wi-Fi router are blinking green or red.

Colorblind people have historically been hesitant to raise accessibility issues in the way other disability rights activists have. It’s often because they’re embarrassed, or because they think they haven’t got a serious disability that warrants change. Additionally, some people don’t even realize they have the condition. But the colorblind community has started to make louder calls for progress. They call out inaccessible design online and offer companies advice on accessibility.

What CIOs Need To Do

It is the responsibility of the person in the CIO position to make sure that your creators, developers and publishers are asking for help before products’ release. The gaming industry has proven progressive on this front with a large proportion of new games arriving with a built-in colorblind mode. A raft of color- and contrast-checker tools entering the market is making it easier for designers to understand what colorblind people need to see.

Other CIOs who understand the importance of information technology are taking the lead in designing products that are usable by colorblind customers. Google Chrome in March introduced a developer tool that mimics a range of colorblind visions so user experience—or UX—designers can check their work for accessibility. Data showed that the most common accessibility issue is color-related, so this seemed like a worthwhile problem for Google to tackle.

Accessible designers need to present visual information through means other than color. One way to go about doing this is to overlay patterns and explanatory text on top of colored features. Controls for colorblind features can be placed on the main interface, rather than burying it deep within a settings menu. This is one way to make software more human and tactile.

What All Of This Means For You

On top of all of the other things that CIOs are being asked to do, there is a growing awareness that the company’s technology has to be useable by people outside of the company. One key area is the company’s website. CIOs are discovering that colorblind people are often not able to make use of the company’s website and this is something that they need to fix.

The new term that CIOs have to get use to is accessible design. This is a design process that takes into account the needs of disabled people. The way that a company’s website is set up may cause colorblind users to miss color-coded information. Colorblind people have often not spoken up when they were unable to do something; however, advocacy groups are now being formed who are speaking up for them. Google is an example of a company that has started to create products that are tailored to meet the needs of colorblind users. Designs that are usable by colorblind users have to communicate using means other than color.

What CIOs need to do is to make sure that being aware of the needs of colorblind users is worked into the company’s design process. Instead of making it an afterthought or something that has to be added after the product is released, it needs to be included in the original design of the product. CIOs who can create technology that meets the needs of all users will be successful.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How can a CIO make colorblind design issues a part of how the company develops products?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you take a look at the long list of things that a modern CIO is responsible for, securing the company’s network is right there at the top. What this actually means is many different things. The importance of information technology requires that firewalls have to be deployed, encryption schemes have to be put in place, and end user training that has to be delivered. However, it turns out that this is all an uphill battle for CIOs. We are struggling with our end users. It turns out that they do a really bad job of coming up with passwords to secure their company network assets. What’s going on here and just exactly how hard could this be to do correctly?