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Colour Contrast, reasonable adjustments and ISO 30071.1 (2019)

Working in perfect harmony to ensure your visual wellbeing. 

Reading about regulations is not everyone’s cup of tea

but they have been created for our benefit, and often expand and build on each other.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations do just that.

So why do we mention ISO 30071.1 when it doesn’t specifically mention colour contrast for screens?

Because this ISO brings accessibility to the regulations by looking at interface accessibility.

It can be seen as being the DSE companion to WCAG 2.1 Colour Contrast Validation for material designed to be presented on-screen

ISO standards are internationally agreed standards, created by experts in their field, and the ISO organisation suggests that you “think of them as a formula that describes the best way of doing something”.

In other words, they describe and encourage best practices.

ISO 30071.1 aims to prevent exclusion and is all about guiding and developing organizational accessibility policies within information and communication technology (ICT) systems and user interface accessibility.


Let’s just take a quick detour and look at the word accessibility.  Does the word accessibility put you off?

Are you thinking – I don’t have any accessibility issues, so this doesn’t apply to me?

Well, it probably does, and here’s why.

Accessibility is the practice of making a website usable by as many people as possible. That could mean making something smartphone-friendly so you can access/read it on any device –iPhone or Android.

It could be making a web-based app accessible on all browsers with no glitches, usable on a Mac and pc, plus it also means helping those who do have accessibility issues – such as low vision.

ISO 300071.1 is there as a guide

and gives process-related guidance, in the form of activities and outcomes.  It is not technical guidance, and basically asks those involved to consider the needs of the user.

This ties in beautifully with the general theme of Display Screen Regulations (DSE), that of making personal and custom “reasonable adjustments”, to prevent or mitigate the risk of direct, and/or longer latency, and repetitive stress injuries.

DSE Regulations make life easier, more efficient and productive when using workplace equipment operated by an employee, including using a digital display screen.

With this ISO, we are going to focus from page 14 onwards – which is all about the personalized/individualised strategy.

“A user-personalized/individualised strategy adapts what is provided by the system to the identified accessibility needs of the individual user in respect of using that system in that context. A system might enable users to specify their accessibility preferences and then adapt its interactions or content automatically to suit those preferences. Alternatively, a similar level of adaptation to individual needs might be provided manually or with the provision of services or content generated for that user”

Throughout this post, we are going to relate this to an office worker, who sits at a desk, and inputs data to Excel spreadsheets.

Let’s call him Dave.

The system (company) has provided Dave with an out-of-the-box pc/laptop, that runs on Windows and uses Office 360.

The IT team have done nothing but unbox his PC, plug it in, ensure the company intranet is on there, Office 360 installed, plus the company cyber security log-ins.

What they don’t know is how well Dave and his visual system cope with a screen that’s way too bright for him, competing with the antiquated overhead fluorescent lighting and the glare from the office window.

No individualisation or personalisation at all.

Dave doesn’t have any accessibility issues that he’s aware of – but straight away his company have put him at a disadvantage, as they have not met his individual needs for his screen.

They haven’t set it up for his preferences.

e.g., does he prefer dark mode when working? Does that help his visual system?

Is the screen too bright and causing him eye strain?

Where are the reasonable adjustments, for him?

This leads us to the next part we would like to highlight

A.3 Support for individualization
The goal: A system supports individualization if its components, functions or operations can be tailored to meet the needs of individual users.

Implementing the goal: [according to ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014,] This goal recognizes that a single system design is seldom optimal in meeting the needs of every user and context of use and it can be important to provide users with choices in how to interact with a system. Individualization focuses on providing each user with means of obtaining the best possible solution for that user.

NOTE Individualization includes both the customization of a system for groups of users and the personalization of a system by/for an individual system.

So, Dave’s IT team have implemented a system (set up the PC with required software) but has failed to meet his needs as an employee who stares at a screen for up to 8 hours a day.

What choices have they given him to personalise his screen?

Have they told him how to adjust it?

Have they given him the options of blinds for the window, or a screen filter to reduce glare?

Are they aware of the choices of changing the font, and of colour contrast that affects his visual system?

We keep going

A.8 Usability
The goal: A system is usable if it supports diverse users in their diverse contexts to accomplish their tasks with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.

Our interpretation of this is that we are all different, with different needs and requirements in order to accomplish tasks.

Makes sense.

And they need to apply this to Dave and ask the question – what will help him?


Daniel Burrus, Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Strategic Business Consultant at Burrus Research, Inc wrote recently,

“Learning to adapt software with your human workforce is more vital in customer service and customer experience than nearly anywhere else in the workforce, all solely because customers are human beings with wants, needs, and issues needing resolution”.

Burrus writes about customer service, but we would argue this is true for all employees. Adapt the software for them.

And this is where we really come to the fore because the Display Screen Optimiser (DSO) ticks all the boxes we have discussed so far.

Personalisation, support and usability.

 The DSO helps you and your visual system to accomplish the goal of being able to use a digital display screen, using your Microsoft applications, in Windows, by finding the individualised, personal to you, colour contrast background, that helps prevent the screen from over fatiguing your eyesight.

It helps you to achieve your tasks with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.

Basically, it mitigates the harms of computer eye strain/screen fatigue.

As we’ve said, it works presently with the Windows operating system (Mac IOS currently in development), which leads us beautifully to the next section we are highlighting, which is:

A.11 Compatibility with other systems
The goal: A system provides compatibility if it allows diverse users to use other systems as a means to interact with it to accomplish the task.

As we reach the end of ISO 30071.1, we come to some real-life examples

They mention the following:

It is important to take particular note of any platform or technology expectations, constraints and preferences of users with impairments in the system’s target audiences, and the impact on these in the various contexts of use in which the ICT system will be used.

EXAMPLE 1 Some office workers or school or university students could be constrained by using a “standard desktop” or organization-issued mobile device, which could dictate the operating system, browser, the preferences they can set in their browser, or the assistive technologies they can install.

EXAMPLE 2 Some people could be constrained in their choice of assistive technology by cost. For example, a blind person could have a costly screen reader provided for them at work, but only be able to afford a free screen reader at home.

And we have been using our data guy Dave to highlight how the DSO complies beautifully with all the DSE regulations, including ISO 30071.1

The DSO is the only colour contrast/ colour validation software that can say this. The others let you choose a preference, but they are not individualised to your visual system.

One size does not fit all.

Inclusive design strategies often need to be enhanced by user-personalized/individualized strategies. This is especially important when it becomes obvious that the difference between the needs of individuals or groups of users will prevent a “one size fits all” approach from giving an experience which works for all. It is often the case that the needs of one user conflict at a technical level with the needs of a different user and make it impossible for one system to meet such conflicting access needs without taking a personalisation/individualization approach.

Individualized user-personalized approaches allow users to be treated as individuals. When implementing user-personalized/individualized functionality, it is important not to inadvertently exclude users with combined disabilities.

As we have said many times, we regard users as individuals, though they may work for a group.

And finally…the ISO states

C.5 Personalization guidelines for individualized ICT system adaptability

Where an individualized approach to ICT accessibility is being used, it is important for the organization to ensure that:

  1. a)  individualization serves the needs of the users;
    NOTE 1 ISO 9241-129 provides guidance on the use of individualization to serve the needs of users.
  2. b)  at least one personalized version of the ICT system is accessible to each of the diverse users of the system.
  3. c)  the means of individualizing the ICT system are accessible.

So, there you have it – the DSO ticks all the boxes required, and one of the first things Dave did once the IT team had set up his PC was to adjust the brightness, sort out any glare issues and download his DSO theme colour, as Dave cares about his visual system and his health.

You too can be like Dave, (who wouldn’t want to be?) and look after your health and wellness, by finding your optimal colour contrast background colour by going to our registration page.

Tired of productivity hacks that don’t work? Try this instead.

Only this isn’t really a ‘hack’.  it’s probably more a preventative, a screen enhancement that behaves like a hack, because after a 15-minute screen reading/scanning test, a download of some software, the hack is installed and up goes your productivity.

Sometimes by as much as 20%.

58% of display screen equipment operators, on average, recover a day a week of productivity.

This hack doesn’t rely upon shortcuts, self-discipline, motivational speeches – nope, the ‘hack’ does it all for you.

Plus this hack is one way of managing your energy, and not your time.


But first, what is productivity?

Is it a formula?

Certainly, many have been written and trashed.

Is it input/output?

Possibly, but the best description we can find, one that doesn’t make us feel like a cog in a machine comes from James Clear, author of atomic habits. He writes –  Productivity is getting important things done consistently.

A goal many of us aspire to.


So, what are we talking about? And isn’t a 20% increase a tad optimistic?

According to the science no, but this is why we have written ‘up to’ and ‘average’, because we are all different and have our own quirks, and that’s important to bear in mind.

Plus, not all screens are the same.


Still curious about the hack?

It’s simply finding the best/ optimal colour contrast, for text, for you.

A unique, individualised coloured background for your laptop/pc/tablet.


We know it doesn’t sound like much – a change in the background colour, and whoop! Up goes your productivity, but colours and sound waves have an impact on our brain, emotions and psychology.

Why else do designers agonise over the colour of branding? Because colour impacts us on many levels.

Having the correct coloured background for you, quietly working away while you pound the keyboard or surf the net, impacts you in ways we are only just starting to understand.


We are humans living in the 21st Century, yet our bodies are still designed to be hunter-gatherers out on the tundra.  Our eyes are made for scanning the horizon, often. They are for looking at our hands as they make flint tools – basket weaving, catching fish – whatever it was that stone age people did. That’s where our eyes are still languishing.

Shoving them in front of a screen for hours at a time, day after day was not in the design brief. Staring at a screen means looking at and importantly focusing and refocusing, repeatedly – at sharp colour contrast, black text on white background, garish neon, flashing images, vertical and horizontal stripes.

Nothing like scanning the horizon of the tundra.


Did you know that text is created from a string of stripes?

M N H I W – as an example.

Sir Ken Robinson beautifully explains it in this video. It’s a TED talk, so not long and well worth a watch.


Our eyes are magnificently rising to the challenge when it comes to screen use, but it’s exhausting for them as they constantly have to refocus. You look at the screen and all that’s on there, then back down to the keyboard, then back to the screen – for hours – or you’re scrolling.  Just think how hard that is on your eyes? This is why many of us now know the intimate symptoms of screen fatigue, computer vision syndrome, or computer eye strain.

We know what screen fatigue feels like – the burning, dry eyes, the headaches, the blurred vision…


Here’s a quick 4-minute video that explains more about screen fatigue and how it affects your eyes and eyesight.


So, what does the correct coloured background do?

It calms the eyes and the excitation that all the sharp contrast cause in your brain.  It’s the excitation and the constant refocusing that tires us out.

There’s a reason they named the tiredness and aching you feel after being on a screen all day screen fatigue – It’s because of the effect the screen has on you!

We wrote another post about why your screen should come with a safety warning – check it out if health and safety and looking after yourself is important to you.

You can also read more about the science in our White Paper.

Essentially having the correct coloured background calms the brain and makes it easier for the eyes to focus and refocus while you are working on screen.


If you really want to have a higher chance of that productivity hack working, then try the Display Screen Optimiser.


Why this one? Because of several things:

  • It provides more than a generic choice of 10-12 colours.
  • It’s objective – it doesn’t care if you hate/love orange – what it cares about is making it much easier on your eyes to read and work online – and if that means orange is your colour – then orange is your colour.
  • It’s a simple theme that can be downloaded and easily uninstalled if you don’t get on with it.
  • There is customer service and tech support – (you don’t get that with a chrome extension!)


If your eyes don’t get as tired, it means you don’t get as tired, which means you make better decisions, think clearer, and are more productive as a result.

Fatigue is slowly killing us – but thankfully we are waking up to this fact. You don’t have to make your eyes tired; you can mitigate this.

Dare we say this could even be part of your business strategy?  By having the individualised colour across all your devices, for all of your staff, (if you have staff) you can continue moving forwards, safe in the knowledge that not only are you reducing the risks of screen fatigue – you’re also increasing your productivity.