Text elements must have sufficient color contrast against the background

Rule ID: color-contrast
User Impact: Serious
WCAG: 1.4.3

Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact

Disabilities Affected

  • Low Vision
  • Colorblindness


  • WCAG 2.0 (AA): MUST

WCAG Success Criteria

  • 1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)

Section 508 Guidelines

  • Not specified, or not applicable

Rule Description

All text elements must have sufficient contrast between text in the foreground and background colors behind it in accordance with WCAG 2 AA contrast ratio thresholds.

Why it Matters

Some people with low vision experience low contrast, meaning that there aren’t very many bright or dark areas. Everything tends to appear about the same brightness, which makes it hard to distinguish outlines, borders, edges, and details. Text that is too close in luminance (brightness) to the background can be hard to read.

There are nearly three times more individuals with low vision than those with total blindness. One in twelve people cannot see the average full spectrum of colors – about 8% of men and 0.4% of women in the US. A person with low vision or color blindness is unable to distinguish text against a background without sufficient contrast.

Color transparency and opacity is taken into account in the background.

Color transparency and opacity in the foreground is more difficult to detect and account for due to:

  • 1:1 colors in foreground and background.
  • CSS background gradients.
  • Background colors in CSS pseudo-elements.
  • Background colors created with CSS borders.
  • Overlap by another element in the foreground – this sometimes comes up with tricky positioning.
  • Elements moved outside the viewport via CSS.

How to Fix the Problem

Ensure all text elements have sufficient color contrast between the text in the foreground and background color behind it.

Success Criterion: Ensure color contrast of at least 4.5:1 for small text or 3:1 for large text, even if text is part of an image. Large text has been defined in the requirements as 18pt (24 CSS pixels) or 14pt bold (19 CSS pixels). Note: Elements found to have a 1:1 ratio are considered “incomplete” and require a manual review.

The Algorithm (in simple terms)

Checks all text elements to ensure that the contrast between the foreground text and the background colors meet the WCAG 2 AA contrast ratio thresholds.


This rule will not report on text elements that have a background-image, are obscured by other elements or are images of text.

This also checks for child elements of disabled buttons so they can be ignored to avoid a false value.