Contrast ratios describe a mathematical relationship between the background and foreground of a bit of text on your wiki. That math gives a wider range of people the opportunity to comfortably read your wiki.

Understanding visual acuity

Snellen chart

We're all shooting for the 20/20 line on this American eye chart.

Consider visual acuity. It's a measurement of how well you can read black letters on a white background from a particular distance, and it's something you've probably done before.

Think about your eye doctor's office. In the US, patients are seated 20 feet from the chart. Visual acuity is a fraction where the numerator is 20 and the denominator is the number assigned to that line on the chart, Statistically average visual acuity is being able to read the line marked 20 from 20 feet away: 20/20[1] — or 6/6, if you use the metric system.

Finding the contrast ratio

The visual acuity fraction is directly related to the contrast ratio — a mathematical expression of the comfort a person has in reading your wiki. The highest ratio is 21:1, which is black text on a white background — or white text on a black background. The lowest is 1:1, meaning that both background and text are the same color.

AAA Regular

Adhering to the web standard doesn't mean you're stuck with boring blacks and whites. This gold-and-purple combo easily passes the AAA mark, as do tens of thousands of others.

A person with 20/20 vision could probably see a page with a 2:1 contrast ratio, but it wouldn't be pleasant. So the minimum contrast ratio for the normally-sighted is 3:1.

But you can't deliver a wiki that's only good for people with 20/20 vision. That's why the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommends two standards: AA and AAA.

With AA, the aim is to account for people who have 20/40 vision by providing a CR of 4.5:1 for regular text, and 3:1 for larger copy. AAA has a minimum contrast ratio of 7:1.

This higher rating will allow people with 20/80 vision to comfortably use your wiki. Those with worse than 20/80 vision usually employ additional assistive technologies, making that the lowest visual acuity that needs to be considered by your CSS alone.[2]


See also

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