Why Accessible Fonts Matter The Key to Unlocking ADA Website Compliance

Why Accessible Fonts Matter The Key to Unlocking ADA Website Compliance

Published: June 6, 2023

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    The internet is today a place of accommodation providing equal rights for everyone to participate, access and retrieve information. Website navigation, design, web page, word spacing, and page layout are most important for ADA compliance. In addition, the minute details like the right font are equally important. Legibility and readability of text content are essential while designing an accessible website. And this is achievable using accessible fonts. Read on to learn why accessible fonts matter for ADA website compliance.

    And if you need help selecting appropriate accessible fonts for your website, we at ADA Site Compliance can help. We have a team of professional accessibility experts to guide you with everything related to ADA website compliance, including using the right fonts for accessibility and adhering to the proper Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines for website compliance.

    All about Font Families

    Multiple font families comprise different fonts with similar characteristics and attributes to design styles. Here are four of the most common and best font families web designers select their accessible fonts from:

    • 1. Serif fonts

      These fonts come with decorations at the end of a symbol or letter stroke.

    • 2. Sans-serifs fonts

      Sans serif typefaces are simpler fonts without extended features or lines at the end of a letter or symbol.

    • 3. Monospace fonts

      These are fonts where each letter or symbol has similar widths.

    • 4. Cursive fonts

      These are the fonts that are written like handwritten cursive and joined letters.

    Why Compatibility with Assistive Technologies is Important

    There are two main reasons for websites to be compatible with assistive devices. The first being it’s advisable for people with disabilities in their 30s and 40s to use these devices for equal browsing and functionality as other web users.

    The second reason is that most countries require that websites use assistive technology. It is so that everyone, including those with disabilities, can access a website. In short, businesses should ensure assistive technology is compatible with other devices to ensure accessibility and prevent lawsuits from discrimination.

    Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed and published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG was created mainly for web content developers, authoring tool developers, and web accessibility standards evaluation tool developers.

    The WCAG is today the widely accepted standard for designing accessible websites and online content. According to Section 508, WCAG has to be followed with at least a level of AA compliance. The Department of Justice and US Courts also refer to the guidelines to evaluable the accessibility of public websites.

    The WCAG has clear guidelines on accessibility fonts for visually impaired users, including features like color, contrast, size, and text proportions. There are also guidelines for the text layout and structure to make web pages more readable and accessible for visual impairments.

    By incorporating these features in the visual elements of a website, accessibility to websites increases for users with low vision, reading disorders, dyslexia, and other cognitive disabilities.

    What are inaccessible fonts?

    Inaccessible fonts are those that:

    • Make it difficult to read the text and distinguish the shapes of letters and characters
    • Reduce the reading speed
    • Do not have separate characters
    • Overlap, thus making it difficult for the reader to read and understand the content

    What are accessible fonts?

    The key to website accessibility lies in using accessible fonts that increase the readability of the web text. Unfortunately, experts have their views on the most readable and accessible font. It is because different users have their requirements.

    For example, users with low vision need larger text. However, users with low field vision but higher vision clarity require more characters in their field of vision but small text sizes. Similarly, users with dyslexia and other reading disorders have their individual needs.

    Web designers strive to offer flexibility where users can choose their fonts and font size. While there are no typical ADA font size requirements, sans-serif fonts are generally a better choice when compared to their full sans-serif font counterparts. The list of accessible fonts includes Arial, Helvetica, Century, Gothic, Verdana, and Calibri.

    A Guide for implementing accessible fonts for ADA Accessible Websites

    The right clear, simple, and relatable font is essential in developing ADA-compliant websites. It does not affect reading speeds and helps those with dyslexia or reading and visual problems easily read and comprehend text.

    It is not enough to select the right font. You also need to know how to apply it to your site. The right font need not necessarily make your text legible. Some visitors may require larger font.

    This guide reveals the various WCAG recommendations for selecting the best fonts for accessibility, its important features, and how to maintain ADA-compliant fonts.

    Devices and technology

    Visitors will access the website using smartphones, desktop devices, and assistive technologies like screen readers. Ensure users can increase or reduce the text size without affecting other elements.

    Font size

    Always define the font size in percentages like .em or .rem. It is challenging for users to change the font size without affecting other user interface components like images if defined in pixels or points.

    About the minimal font size for accessibility, there are no fast rules. However, it is better to start at 1 rem or 16px.

    Letting users control the font size is also better than using specific font sizes while creating web content. Besides defining font sizes, the text should be readable without overlapping while zooming in on pages.

    Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommends the ability to zoom pages to a maximum of 200% for increased text size.

    Users should also not have to depend only on assistive devices to zoom in and out of a page. They should also be able to define font sizes with minimal effort. Including a slider for readers to change the text size as required helps.

    Font color

    Colors undoubtedly help in relaying important information to readers. While using red for errors, blue for hyperlinks, and gray for disabled fields help convey meaningful information, those with low color perception or visual disabilities may not be able to recognize colors.

    So it is better to avoid depending solely on font colors to convey meanings or to encourage users to take specific actions. Instead, provide an alternative that website visitors with low color perception can understand, like visual cues like underlining or bolding.

    Most essential, apply the correct color contrast ratio to your text. WCAG recommends a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 for body text. A minimum font size of 3:1 is recommended for headings.

    Color contrast

    Color contrast is the contrast between the text and background colors. It plays an essential role in determining website accessibility compliance because adequate text color contrast is easy for anyone to see and read text.

    The default for web content is using black text on a white background. However, web designers are constantly looking for other viable color combinations. It mainly does not depend on the color combination. What is essential is the amount of contrast because having extreme contrast between the text and background can only create problems.

    Typeface readability

    We quickly scan text to subconsciously parse and convert individual characters into meaningful words and phrases. We thus read and understand the text without seeing or thinking about the characters and words.

    However, unfamiliar words and characters create barriers that make us pause before processing things. You help improve the website text readability and understanding by preventing these unnecessary interruptions.

    Use common fonts

    Common fonts like Times New Roman and Arial improve website accessibility and ensure smooth access to content across devices and browsers.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are some frequently asked questions about accessible fonts for ADA compliance.

    • 1. What makes a font ADA-compliant?

      A font is considered ADA-compliant if it has a maximum 12-point width and its color contrasts with the background. Some common examples are Verdana, Times New Roman, and Arians.

    • 2. What fonts are ADA-compliant for the Web?

      Tahoma, Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Verdana, and Helvetica are the most accessible fonts. Even slab serif fonts like Rockwell, Museo Slab, and Arvo is considered ADA-compliant fonts accessible.

    • 3. What is the font size for ADA-compliant websites?

      There are no official ADA-enforced minimal font sizes for website use. However, use at least a 16px font for the body text.

    • 4. What fonts should be avoided for web accessibility?

      It is better to keep letter spacing and avoid using fonts with ‘imposter letter shapes’ resembling other letter shapes. And while the minimum expected font size is 12 points, 16 points improve readability. It is also generally questioned about using italicized and bolded fonts to symbolize meaning.


    So much goes into selecting the right fonts to increase your website accessibility. And you undoubtedly have to spend some time figuring out which fonts to use in your website and text.

    However, it is essential for the web designing process. It not only ensures you create a more accessible website. It also helps broaden your customer base by increasing accessibility to disabled users. Most importantly, using accessible fonts avoids unnecessary and damaging lawsuits.

    Not everyone will understand these attributes and the WCAG guidelines for improved website accessibility. This is where we at ADA Site Compliance can help you.

    We have a team of accessibility experts available to ensure you create an ADA-compliant website.

    However, some people may not understand the attributes and role of WCAG in enhancing the website and web accessibility requirements. This is where we at ADA Site Compliance can help. Our team of accessibility experts will help and guide you to use the right fonts and ensure website compliance.

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