Spring time brings out the most color as the flaura and fauna of nature wakes up from winter. Color is beautiful to see, but did you know that color contrast plays the biggest role in creating compliant ADA signage for architectural environments? Before we get into a long explanation of how to create sufficient color contrast to ensure your signage complies with the 2010 ADA Guidelines, let’s have some fun with trivia questions about color…which might end up helping you understand more about creating ADA signage with sufficient color contrast.
Color Trivia Fun
Is color blindness more common in men or women?
Men. About 7% of the U.S. male population cannot distinguish red from green. Color blindness only affects 0.4% of women.
Who is credited with inventing the first color wheel (a circular representation of colors?)
Sir Isaac Newton
What is metamerism (and why should signage people care)?
Metamerism is the matching of color of objects with different spectral power distributions. A spectral power distribution describes the proportion of total light emitted, transmitted, or reflected by a color sample at every visible wavelength; it precisely defines the light from any physical stimulus. Metameric color matches are quite common, especially in near neutral (grayed or whitish colors) or dark colors. As colors become lighter or more saturated, the range of possible metameric matches (different combinations of light wavelengths) becomes smaller, especially in surface colors.
illuminant metameric failure is sometimes used to describe situations where two material samples match when viewed under one light source but not another. Most types of fluorescent lights produce an irregular or peaky spectral emittance curve, so that two materials under fluorescent light might not match, even though they are a metameric match to an incandescent “white” light source
LRV Color Contrast Tool Helps Comply with ADA Guidelines
As an architectural signage industry “rule of thumb,” a 70% Light Reflectance Value (LRV) contrast between sign text and background colors is an ideal guideline to follow when evaluating color and finish options. LRV values for all paint finishes in our Standard Ranges and the calculation used to calculate LRV contrast have been provided for you in our Standard Color Documentation. Most major paint manufacturers include LRV values for their colors in their swatch books.
However, what does 70% contrast really mean once you consider things like metamerism, color blindness and the wide options of color choices in the color wheel as well as ambient and electrified lighting?
The answer is, “not very much” because there are many things to consider regarding human eyesight. This is why we use it as a “rule of thumb,” not a mandate or a law. It is meant as a starting point. For more information, we recommend reading the following posts: