How to Choose An Accessible Font for Your Website
Using accessible fonts is critical to comply with accessibility rules and make your website readable for all users. Learn how to make your site more accessible.
With tens of thousands of fonts to choose from, how do you narrow down your search for the best font for your website?
We recommend starting with font accessibility. Choose a font that’s easy to see and read for people of all abilities, including those with visual impairments and reading disabilities, such as dyslexia.
In this guide, we share font accessibility basics, a few best practices, and a list of accessible fonts to help you get started designing an accessible website.
Please note that for the purposes of this article, we use ‘font’ and ‘typeface’ interchangeably.
For an instant look at accessibility — including your font choices — check your website for accessibility issues.
What Makes a Font Accessible?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for accessible fonts, but elements like size, color, spacing, weight, and contrast all play a role. Inaccessible fonts make it more difficult to distinguish between the shapes of letters and characters, which can slow down reading speed or make the content impossible to decipher for some website visitors.
Examples of inaccessible fonts include more decorative fonts, like cursive or handwriting styles. While these fonts can add a lot of style to your website, they can also make it harder to read and navigate.
To learn more about the effects of different fonts on reading speed and comprehension, check out a recent study published by the Association for Computing Machinery. The study, which concluded that “no single font can benefit all readers,” is a great piece for further reading on font accessibility.
Why Choose an Accessible Font?
The wrong font can act as a barrier for certain website visitors. If you choose an inaccessible font, you could be isolating people with visual impairments and learning disabilities from your site’s content. Selecting an accessible font is an important step toward inclusion and compliance with accessibility guidelines.
Using accessible fonts ensures that your content is easier to read and is compatible with assistive technology, such as screen readers. Beyond protecting your business from accessibility complaints (and possibly, lawsuits), the main benefit of using accessible fonts is prioritizing the needs of web visitors with disabilities.
Approximately 32 million adults in the United States have visual impairments. This number doesn’t even include those with visual processing difficulties or other learning disabilities. If your website isn’t accessible, it’s likely many users won’t be able to understand your content or access the resources and products you offer.
If the text is harder to read, your page visits and traffic will decline. There can also be search engine optimization (SEO) benefits to complying with accessibility guidelines — easy navigation, readable text, and improved user experience can help boost your search engine rankings and enable more people to easily find your site.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for Fonts
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of recommendations published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help website owners and content creators publish accessible content for people with disabilities.
Below are some of the basic guidelines set by WCAG to help you comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
The ADA ensures people with disabilities are protected from discrimination, including in “places of public accommodation.” ADA compliance means that any business open to the public is required to make their online content and services accessible to people who rely on assistive technologies to navigate the internet.
Spacing is an important part of WCAG compliance. The spacing of your letters and lines should provide enough room to avoid any overlap, making each word more readable.
However, WCAG’s requirements also cover text modification. People with certain disabilities may adjust the text on the page, increasing the spacing to make it easier for them to read. Words should not disappear or overlap when users modify page text from their browser.
For technical specifications, check out WCAG Success Criterion 1.4.12 Text Spacing.
While you might think dark text on a white background is easily readable, this isn’t always the case. Just like too little contrast will make text fade into the background, too much contrast can also cause visual fatigue.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline various recommendations for color accessibility, including guidance for color contrast ratios, luminance, backgrounds, and color spacing in order to make a site more accessible to those with any type of vision deficiency.
To learn more, check out AudioEye’s Color Contrast Checker, which reflects WCAG.
While all these factors play a role, font size is one of the most important parts of readability. WCAG has no minimum font size, but recommends that users should be able to resize text up to 200% without any content or functionality loss.
For more information, check out WCAG criteria for resizing text.
4. Text with Graphics
Some web designers will use text within images instead of standard blocks of text, but this presents an accessibility challenge.
Standard text can be adjusted for size, spacing, and color without changing the overall readability of the website. Text within images, however, is much less adaptable. It can become pixelated and difficult to read when enlarged, making it an obstacle for users with visual disabilities.
According to the WCAG, if the same presentation can be made using text alone, you should avoid using an image to present that text.
To learn more, check WCAG’s Success Criterion 1.4.5: Images of Text.
What Makes a Font or Typeface More Readable?
Improving readability doesn’t just lower barriers for readers with vision or reading disabilities — it’s beneficial for all users.
If you want to make your typeface more readable, here are some best practices for accessibility:
- Use simple, familiar, and readable typefaces.
- Avoid complex characters, like cursive or handwriting fonts.
- Avoid character ambiguity, where two or more letters can be easily confused.
- Use a limited number of font variations (one, two, or three at most).
- Consider spacing to ensure there’s plenty of white space and no overlapping text.
- Make sure text and background colors have sufficient contrast.
- Avoid small font sizes or large blocks of crowded text.
10 Typefaces Commonly Used for Accessibility
To achieve web accessibility and make your content more inclusive for all audiences, you should use only clear, simple, and easily readable fonts and typefaces.
But it’s not always obvious which ones are accessible and which aren’t. The ADA doesn’t specify certain typefaces that are more accessible than others.
Plenty of popular fonts are already available that will help your site pass accessibility requirements. Here are 10 accessible fonts that provide inclusive reading experience:
- Times New Roman
- Century Gothic
To learn why some of these fonts are accessible, check out AudioEye’s post on 10 Best Fonts for Dyslexia.
Ready to test your website for accessibility?