a11y tips: Disabled buttons and colour contrast.

Sean Elliott
2 min readMar 1, 2018

a11y tips is a series of short articles (300ish words) which stem from answers to questions I have been asked about web accessibility. These tips will hopefully help others and may also bring to the surface some obscure rules, tips and techniques.

The question: Do disabled buttons need to conform to colour contrast guidelines?

The answer: No disabled buttons do not need to pass color contrast guidelines.

1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum):
Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains significant other visual content, have no contrast requirement.

Before you rush off and ignore all your disabled buttons there is a Nicki Minaj sized BUT you should consider as well.

1.4.1 Use of Color this guideline states colour should not be the only means to convey information.

To make sure your disabled button is the most accessible version of itself, I recommend the following:

  • Use the disabled or aria-disabled attributes to convey information to screen readers (only use aria attributes as a last resort)
  • Add to your disabled styles cursor: not-allowed this will serve as another visual indicator for mouse users.
  • Disabled styles should substantially look different to your non-disabled styles even for those who are RGB blind — grey out the button, dont just mute the colours.

Checkout the quick Codepen example below.

Example of disabled button styles

Colour contrast is a big thing for web accessibility, crappy contrast can make the web harder to use for everyone, even those people with 20/20 vision.

Have I missed something important in this article or said something that is wrong? Please comment/message me and let me know.

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