Streamline Accessibility By Choosing the Most Accessible Fonts

Streamline Accessibility By Choosing the Most Accessible Fonts
  • 3 min read

Accessibility means giving everyone the same access, regardless of their ability. And when it comes to your website, fonts matter.

We’ve been writing about accessibility a lot lately because it’s an important, though usually ignored, aspect of speed, compliance, and frankly, best practices on the web. These best practices turn into good SEO practices. That helps your Conversion Rate – something everyone wants to optimize, not just eCommerce stores. 

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

When you’re publishing on the web, you have to remember the reason why you’re doing it. Namely, for marketing – communication. To communicate effectively with your entire audience, you need to keep accessibility in mind. This means ensuring your website has enough contrast in the color palette, proper HTML markup, a logical header structure (h1, h2, h3, etc), and fonts that can be read for low vision, dyslexic, and screen readers.

Aside from digging into more robust and legal reasons (Americans With Disabilities Act – ADA), good font choices mean your website can be read by as many potential customers as possible. Your bottom line will thank you.

“Websites that do not comply with web accessibility requirements can face compliance issues, damage their brand and also lose out on that section of customers who cannot access their sites. It is for these reasons that fonts are so important for web accessibility.”

ADA Site Compliance

How Does a Font Affect Accessibility?

But shouldn’t screen readers be able to read any font on the web? Well, not having to use a screen reader, you may think so. But it’s not that simple. Screen readers, for example, don’t read bold text as bold. So, that emphasis is lost. Additionally, screen readers will read words in all caps as acronyms. The same is true with emoji in your text. 

Accessibility and fonts aren’t just about those who need a screen reader, however. You’ll want to choose fonts that scale well and, more importantly, have distinct shapes. There are letter pairings that can be confusing for those with dyslexia, low vision, or, frankly, the neurodivergent.

Is it a capital “i” or a lowercase “l?” If they look the same, it can be a problem. For example, there’s a TV station in Corpus Christi, TX, with the call letters k, i, i, i. When this is in all caps – “KIII TV”, your brain may think it says the word “kill” – as in murder. Font choices should enhance the clarity of your communication on the web, not confuse it.

“Also, when choosing your fonts, be sure not to select font faces or variations that are very lite (have thin lines). These can be problematic, especially at smaller font sizes. Instead, choose regular weight for most uses and lightweight and bold for certain accents.”

Stanford University

What If My Brand Guidelines Don’t Have any Accessible Fonts?

If your brand guidelines don’t have an accessible font, the best choice is to add one. When Tiffany’s & Co. got their branding done, there was a different font for the packaging (the famous Tiffany Blue Boxes), the three-dimensional signage outside of stores, and the etched glass signage on the windows. The use case determines the best font. It’s the same with your brand guidelines.

Google Fonts is a great resource for learning about fonts. That will help you with finding a font similar to the one in your logo, for example. Or, you can just go with widely accepted fonts from sources around the web.

What Are The Most Accessible Fonts?

Roboto seems to top everyone’s list of the most-accessible font. Also in there are Sans Serif fonts you find everywhere on the web and in apps – Arial (did you doubt this?), Tahoma, and Verdana. Sans Serif fonts are modern, edgy, and are used often in tech (Apple uses Arial and Android uses Roboto).

When it comes to Serif, Times New Roman is on the top of the accessible list. You can always go with Georgia and Palatino which are very nice. These happen to be the fonts that the University of North Carolina, Greensboro chose for their body font. Serifs have a formal look to them that is perfect for industries where that is important such as banking, insurance, and anything financial.

“The most accessible fonts are Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman. Slab serif fonts including Arvo, Museo Slab, and Rockwell are also considered to be accessible.”

SiteImprove

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