Using Color Contrast to Enhance Fitness Equipment Accessibility

11 - color

The US Access Board’s ADAAG guidelines specify rules and recommendations in order to make facilities more accessible to people of all abilities.  One such guideline for signage specifies that there be 70% contrast between characters and their background in order to make them readable for people with vision impairments.

Applying the principle of these guidelines to fitness equipment, our goal is to make the signage and elements of universally designed fitness equipment more accessible to people with vision impairment.  For example, a yellow weight pin contrasts black weights better than a dark gray weight pin contrasts against black weights.  By measuring the light reflectance value (LRV), or the lightness of an object on a scale from black to white, we are able to measure and calculate the color contrast between characters and their background or two elements.

When people hear the term “Color Contrast” they often think of contrast in terms of a color’s hue.  Color has three properties: Hue, Saturation, and Value (see picture).

Hue refers to what is commonly called color, i.e., red, green, blue-green, orange, etc.

Saturation refers to the richness of a hue as compared to a gray of the same brightness; in some color notation systems, saturation is also known as chroma.

Value (or Lightness) of a light source or of an opaque object is measured on a scale ranging from dim to bright for a source or from black to white for an opaque object (or from black to colorless for a transparent object).

A color’s hue plays a major role in its contrast to other colors for persons with normal vision; however, for people with vision impairment, hue can be irrelevant.  The goal of the draft ASTM Standards is to aid manufacturers in designing universal fitness equipment, guide fitness centers in the selection of universal fitness equipment, and assist individuals with disabilities in choosing appropriate fitness equipment to match their needs. Therefore, the measurement of LRV and the calculation of contrast should be conducted in a manner to cover all individuals, including those who have anomalous trichromacy colorblindness (i.e. difficulty discerning certain colors due to a deficiency in one of the three cone pigments in the eye) or monochromacy (i.e. total color blindness).

Our research has led to the identification of technology for measuring light reflectance values as well as a methodology to collect and calculate color contrast.  We are currently working on determining the effect that the angle of viewing has on color contrast.

Future results of this research have wide spread applicability beyond this project, in both indoor and outdoor environments, and other industries such as consumer products and signage.

Click for more information on the color contrast research under the RERC RecTech.

For more information on the US Access Board website.

For more information on the draft ASTM Standard Specification for Additional Requirements for Universal Design of Fitness Equipment Optimization for Inclusive Use for Persons with Functional Limitations and Impairments, visit the ASTM Website and Beneficial Designs’ Website.