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Color contrast in documents

Text and icons, in order to be easy to read, must have sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) defines specific contrast ratios that must be met for compliance.

For an overview of this issue, see Color Contrast in our IT Accessibility Checklist.

Techniques for Word

The “Check Accessibility” feature built into Microsoft Office will flag “Hard-to-read text contrast” if the ratio of the text and the background falls below a certain threshold. Follow the prompts within the Inspection Results to increase the contrast. For an overview of the “Check Accessibility” feature, see our Checking Microsoft Office for Accessibility page.

Microsoft Office Check Accessibility Inspection Results. Hard-to-read-text contrast falls under Warnings, below are steps for fixing this issue.


Adobe Acrobat’s built-in Accessibility Checker includes an option “Document has appropriate color contrast” that can be toggled on/off with a checkbox.  However, this results only in a warning that color contrast must be reviewed manually. Given this limitation, it is important to review color contrast in the document’s authoring software before exporting or saving it as a PDF.

Colour Contrast Analyser

TPGI’s Colour Contrast Analyser is a downloadable application for both Windows and Mac that enables you to check the contrast of any two colors from your computer screen. This makes it particularly useful for checking colors in various applications, including documents or software, not just websites. Additional information about this tool is available on our Color contrast on Websites page.