Accessibility and flashing lights

white and black modem router with four lights

It seems few pieces of electronic equipment these days doesn’t have a status LED on it. Don’t get me wrong, these are great help to quickly diagnose issues, particularly for those devices that don’t have screens or app connectivity. But, unless implemented well (which few are), they’re horrible for accessibility.

At the moment I’m writing an article for The Big Tech Question about the status light on a Google Chromecast. When things go horribly wrong, according to Google, it will blink red. But if you look at what people are searching for and you’ll see the top result is what it means when the light is orange. And, no, there isn’t a separate orange status. Indeed, lots of people are searching for pink too – the LED simply isn’t obviously red. And this is for people without any kind of colour perception issue.

Imagine if you’re colour blind in some way and unable to determine the status of your device from working fine to not at all. Yet, so many devices use different shades of colour from a single LED as a way to convey this.

Some, such as the Philips Hue Bridge, use multiple single colours lights. The Apple TV uses a single, white LED, and different patterns (solid, flashing, etc.). Basically, there are much better alternatives. So why are so many big named hardware producers still getting it wrong? Simple answer – they don’t care about accessibility (or certainly as much as they may say they do).

It’s not difficult either…

  • Don’t use different colours for status’
  • Do use multiple LEDs, each of the same colour
  • Do use different patterns


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