Why you should care about older and colour-blind people

There are strong commercial, legal and moral reasons for making online services accessible to older and color-blind users

Legislation is coming into place the world over to stop the discrimination against disabled users of online services. Low-vision, is counted as a disability, whether it be due to old age or colour blindness. Failing to make online services accessible can result in legal action. The consequences can include being ordered to comply, pay compensation and being subjected to bad publicity. In Australia, the organizing committee for the Sydney Olympic Games was ordered to pay Au $20,000 because its website was inaccessible to a blind user.





Disability Discrimination Act 1995


Section 508

table 1 Accessibility legislation around the world

Commercially and demographically older people have become a very important group. In the UK over-55s make up 25% of the population 6. In the rest of developed world they also make up an increasingly large proportion of the population (see Figure 1). Perhaps more important then their sheer numbers, is the fact that they are a proportionately very wealthy section of the population. The Economist reports that “Over-50s own three-quarters of all financial assets and account for half of all discretionary spending power in developed countries. […] In America, they control four-fifths of the money invested in savings-and-loan associations and own two-thirds of all the shares on the stock market” 2. Neglecting to design for older people is a serious commercial error; there are a lot of them and they have a lot of money to spend.

Figure 1 People aged over 60 in the developed world now and in the future 8

The color-blind are a smaller, but nevertheless sizable section of the population. Colour-blindness affects about 7 percent of males and 0.5 percent of females; a statistic that holds true across age, geography and race 4,5. For the more serious types of colour blindness that AccessibleSight deals with, this becomes about 6 and 0.2 percent respectively which for the population as a whole translates to about 3%.

Figure 2 The % of the population partially sighted due to age and colour blindness. Statistics on population age are taken from the 1990 census data 1.


1. National Census data for England and Wales. Office for National Statistics. 10-10-2002.

2. Economist. Over 60 and overlooked. www.economist.com. 8-8-2002.

3. Population Ageing 2002 (Wall Chart). United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs . 2002.

4. Slaby,D. & Roberts,J. Color vision deficiencies in youths 12-17 of age. Division of health examination statistics 11(134). 1974.

5. Scanlon,J. & Roberts,J. Color vision deficiencies in children. Division of health examination statistics 11(118). 1973.