Color blindness in the Classroom Part 1 - Featured Image

Color Blindness in the Classroom: Part 1 – Color Blind Friendly Charts

Back in January, Joanna Malefaki from My ELT Rambles asked me if there was a way to customize charts so that they were more color blind friendly.

She wanted to create charts that weren’t just based on color. She wanted to incorporate lines, dots and patterns. So, Joanna and I ended up collaborating for some time; emailing drafts back and forth and designing some examples.

That collaboration eventually resulted in this post.

Joanna has written an introduction that explains a little bit about color blindness before I continue by discussing the examples and tutorial videos.

Contents

  1. Introduction
    • A brief introduction to color blindness written by Joanna Malefaki.
  2. Line Charts
    • An introduction into changing the line type, style and width. Use dots, dashes and solid lines to make your charts easy to read.
  3. Bar Charts
    • An introduction into using different patterns and contrasting colors to make bar charts easier to read.
  4. Pie Charts
    • An introduction into using images rather than colors for pie charts. Images not only clearly illustrate information but they also make your charts more visually appealing.

#1 Introduction

One color blind student in every class

According to colourblindawareness.org/, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colour blind and it is estimated that there is one colour blind student in every classroom!

Seeing just black and white is extremely rare. Most people are red/green colour blind and more rarely blue. This does not mean that people confuse their reds and greens, it actually means that they have trouble seeing shades of these colors and colors that are formed with these colours.

I am color blind and reading charts is very difficult for me.

I am color blind and reading charts is very difficult for me. Very often people create graphs that use a lot of colours to display whatever they want to showcase. When I told tekhnologic I would like some help with graphs, he decided to help me out with these excellent tutorials on how to make color blind friendly charts.

I gave him some suggestions as to what to avoid. I asked him to:

  • Use a white background and dark fonts.
  • Not choose colours that are hard for colour blind people to distinguish.
  • Try to find different icons or anything else that could be used to show the results of a survey, research or whatever else a chart is used for.

These tutorials are what he came up with and I think they are extremely helpful not just for people who are color blind, but also for people who would like to make their presentations more memorable!

Joanna

You may also want to watch this video from colorblindawareness.org. It’s part of their #1ineveryclassroom campaign and it’s been made to help people understand the difficulties faced by color blind students. Although it is more for teachers of young leaners, I think it is worth watching regardless of the age group you teach.

And as the song says:

Give a helping hand and be understanding of my point of view.

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#2 Line Charts

Line Chart v2

When you insert a line chart into a presentation or document, the default setting is to differentiate the lines by color only.

However, as you can see in the example above, I have attempted to make the chart easier to read by using different line styles with symbols to explain the information. Instead of simply referring to the yellow line, why not talk about the yellow dotted line or the yellow dotted line that illustrates a gradual increase in reading?

Watch this tutorial video to see how to create a line chart and how to format the individual lines.

Video run time is 4 minutes 28 seconds

Creating a Line Chart

  • Go to the insert ribbon and click on add a chart.
  • Choose line chart from the list on the right-hand side and select your style before clicking OK.
  • Enter your values for the chart.
    • Enter values from a text or sources.
    • Or generate a random chart by typing in the following formula: =RANDBETWEEN(1,100). Copy this formula into the other cells and you will generate a completely random chart using random numbers.
  • Change the chart by pressing F9 – this will recalculate the formula and generate new random numbers.

Don’t choose colours that are hard for colour blind people to distinguish.

This was one of the requests from Joanna. She wanted contrasting colors and different line styles to make the lines easy to distinguish. So, we need to format the lines.

Formatting the Lines

  • Select one of the lines and go to the format ribbon.
  • Select the line color menu (shape outline menu) and choose your line color.
  •  Return to the line menu and choose a line style.
  • You will see five icons under the color selection. Choosing a custom color, the eyedropper tool, width options, line style options and arrows. Line style options is the second from the bottom.
The other way to format the lines is to open the format pane.
  • Select one of the lines and right-click. Click on format data series.
  • The format pane will open. Click on the fill line icon.
  • There are two sections. The line section and the marker section.
    • The line section allows you to change the color, transparency, width, number of lines and line style.
    • The marker section allows you to create a marker and change its color, size and shape. Markers represent the data points in the line.

It’s such a quick and simple trick to change the line style, but it can really make a difference and make it so much easier to distinguish the different lines.

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#3 Bar Charts

Bar Chart v2

In the same way we can use line style to help differentiate colors, why not use patterns with other charts.

In the example above, I have attempted to make the chart easier to read by using colors that are easier to distinguish and different pattern fills. I also increased the size of the legend, so it is easier to read the text, but it also easier to see and match the patterns. Instead of simply referring to the black bar, why not talk about the striped black bar or the striped black bar that illustrates Person 1’s internet use?

Watch this tutorial video (of a slightly different example chart) to see how to create a bar chart and how to format a group of bars and give them a pattern fill.

 Video run time is 2 minutes 52 seconds

Creating a Bar Chart

  • Go to the insert ribbon and click on add a chart.
  • Choose bar chart from the list on the right-hand side and select your style before clicking OK.
  • Enter your values for the chart.
    • Enter values from a text or sources.
    • Or generate a random chart by typing in the following formula: =RANDBETWEEN(0,10). Copy this formula into the other cells and you will generate a completely random chart using random numbers.
  • Change the chart by pressing F9 – this will recalculate the formula and generate new random numbers.

Use a white background and dark fonts.

This wasn’t only important for the text, but Joanna also pointed out that it was important for the pattern fill. I had originally used a darker background in the pattern fill, but it made it more difficult to distinguish the shapes.

Formatting the Bars

  • Select one of the bars and all the whole group of bars should be selected. Click again and you will select only ne bar in that group.
  • Right-click and click on format data series.
  • The format pane will open. Click on the fill line icon.
  • Select pattern fill from the fill options.
  • Choose a light background color and a dark foreground color.
  • Select your pattern from the options available.
  • Repeat for the other bars.
  • Use contrasting colors and a different pattern for each bar.

Similarly with line styles, a pattern just makes it easier to distinguish different elements of the chart.

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#4 Pie Charts

Pie Chart v2

You could use pattern fill with pie charts as well, but using images can make attractive charts that are easy to understand.

In the example above, I have used a different image for each segment of the pie chart and I also increased the size of the legend, so it is easier to read the text, but it also easier to see and match the images.

Watch this tutorial video to see how to create a pie chart and how to use an image for each segment

Video run time is 2 minutes 14 seconds

Creating a Pie Chart

  • Go to the insert ribbon and click on add a chart.
  • Choose pie chart from the list on the right-hand side and select your style before clicking OK.
  • Enter your values for the chart.
    • Enter values from a text or sources.
    • Or generate a random chart by typing in the following formula: =(RAND()+RANDBETWEEN(0,25)).
    • =RAND() generates a random decimal number between 0 and 1.
    • =RANDBETWEEN(0,25) generates a random number between 0 and 25. Adding both those formulas together will give you a random number between 0 – 25 to at least 7 decimal places. (up to 25.9999999)
    •   Copy this formula into the other cells and you will generate a completely random chart using random numbers.
    • In the last cell write the formula =100-Sum(B2:B4). This will calculate the remainder out of 100.
  • Change the chart by pressing F9 – this will recalculate the formula and generate new random numbers.

Try to find different icons or anything else that could be used to show the results of a survey, research or whatever else a chart is used for.

This was another request by Joanna. I used icons and symbols in the line chart example, but you can equally use images. ELTpics has a huge selection of images that can be used to make your charts look both attractive and informative.

Formatting the Segments of the Pie Chart

Click once to select the whole pie chart, click again to select a single segment of the pie chart. Only one part of the pie chart will be surrounded by blue dots.

  • Right-click and select format data point.
  • The format pane will open. Click on the fill line icon.
  • Select picture or texture fill from the fill options.
  • Click on file.
  • Select your image and click on insert.
  • Repeat for the other segments.

 

Because images contain a variety of different colors, patterns and textures they make it very easy to distinguish different parts of a chart.

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I hope these tutorials are of some use and just remember the advice Joanna gave to me. Use white backgrounds, choose your colors well, use images and symbols and format your charts so you don’t only rely on color to read them.

I hope to write a follow up post about working with colors in the future. In the meantime, if you have any comments or suggestions, Please leave a comment.

Alternatively, you can send me a message by visiting the contact page, leaving me a message on my Facebook page or by following me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!


You may also like to visit:

http://www.colourblindawareness.org/

http://myeltrambles.com/all-about-colours/

Charts can be inserted into most Microsoft® Office® products. For more help, visit https://support.office.com/

The example charts and tutorial videos were made with Microsoft® PowerPoint®. They are for educational purposes only.

9 thoughts on “Color Blindness in the Classroom: Part 1 – Color Blind Friendly Charts

  1. Pardon the pun, but this is eye-opening! I work with adults in the business world and have never considered this. This post will help me make my training more effective for all of my audience. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on My Pink Rambles and commented:
    Hi guys!
    Of course I had to reblog this post cause I think it is really important to help raise awareness about people who are colourblind (like me). Graphs are hard for us CB people! I actually think that this post is a great resource when teaching presentation skills in general! Why does a graph have to only rely on colour?
    I am really happy Tekhologic agreed to help me out. This is the result of our collaboration :). Many thanks T.!

    Like

  3. Im a teacher so this is important information however I have contrast sensitivity and pattern sensitivity so what you did with all these graphs makes them much harder for me to see and on some of them impossible. Several of them i just cant read accurately at all. Graduated scale of colour with sufficient contrast is the way to go not a multitude of colours and patterns. also needing a legend for a graph means you have not draws you graph well its just another step in making the information confusing.

    Like

    1. Hi Beatrice,

      Everyone is different. These graphs and charts were designed on request from and I designed a few versions until my fellow blogger was pleased with the result.

      For you, as you state you would prefer a different design.

      That’s not a problem. The point in my article is more about the features within MS Office that enables people customize the graphs to suit the viewer. You can also choose to disable the legend of you wish as well.

      Best,
      T

      Like

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