Accessible Fonts: Which Ones You Should Choose | Compliant

Web accessibility is a growing concern in our day. More and more information is being consumed and shared in the digital environment than ever before.

Accessible design exists to ensure everyone has equal access to content on the internet, especially those with disabilities. But, when it comes to the web page, how the content is presented is important.

The readability and legibility of your content matter to those reading it, so that is why careful consideration must be taken to choose an accessible font.

Choosing the right font could make all the difference when it comes to user experience.

Why Is Font Accessibility Important?

There are hundreds of different fonts to choose from these days, each with its own unique characteristics. Choosing one simply for aesthetic appeal or its playful characteristic is not a good practice for those striving for web accessibility.

Font accessibility ensures that the content is displayed in the most accessible manner possible for those with disabilities, such as those with visual impairments like low vision or color blindness.

Also, accessible fonts must be appropriate for those with dyslexia, which is a learning disability that affects 20 percent of the population.

Choosing an accessible font ensures individuals like these have equal access to content and information.

Font Accessibility as a Requirement

Also, it is important to note that using accessible fonts is not optional in most cases. In fact, using an inaccessible font could not only open the doorway to confusion for users, but it could also open the doorway to legal action.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has regulations that pertain to places of public accommodation, specifically outlined under Title III.

In most cases, this also includes informational websites of these places. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act also outlines provisions for web accessibility when it comes to federal agencies.

Whether or not the law applies specifically to your website, accessibility is considered a best practice for ensuring equal access to web content.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides guidelines for all forms of web accessibility, including fonts, which is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Should I Choose Serif or Sans Serif Fonts?

When it comes to accessibility, the font size, color, contrast, and font family matter. But, many fonts are not specifically designed with web accessibility in mind.

In short, an inaccessible font makes content more difficult to read — or impossible to read for some individuals.

When it comes to font accessibility, typeface readability is the goal. Font and typeface fall under the same discipline known as typography and could be considered an extension of the branch of letterforms.

Typeface usually refers to a particular set of fonts or font styles. So, in effect, a font could describe the typeface, the size, text color, and different weights.

In fact, many elements set fonts apart from one another, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Counter
  • Weight
  • Ascenders and descenders of the lowercase letters
  • X-height

Even the use of caps or italics can change the dynamics of a font.

Most font variations can be put underneath two primary typefaces: Serif fonts and sans-serif fonts. But which is better for accessibility?

Well, most (not all) serif fonts use small, decorative strokes to embellish letters. Sans-serif fonts typically offer a cleaner and simpler look.

The consensus rests with choosing sans-serif, monospaced fonts, which offer a clean look and occupy the same amount of horizontal space.

Which Fonts Should I Choose?

While there are specialized fonts that are specifically made with particular disabilities in mind, like Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic for those with dyslexia, there are many accessible fonts to choose from that do not require special licenses to use.

Below are some of the most common, accessible fonts:


Based on Monotype Grotesque, Arial is among the top sans-serif fonts used today. It was created in 1982 and intended for the digital age. It features text curves and is a top choice for advertising.


Microsoft developed Verdana to combat the issues associated with the on-screen displays.

It exhibits characteristics derived from pixels rather than a pen, as in script-style fonts, making it a perfect choice for online legibility and accessibility.


Helvetica is among the most widely used typefaces globally, being a top choice for logos and digital advertising.

This sans-serif font is versatile and rather bland, which bodes well for accessibility where flash is to be avoided.

Times New Roman

This serif font is widely popular for books and periodicals, which it derived its name (London Times).

While there is debate over whether it makes an effective choice for those with dyslexia, it is one of the cleanest serif fonts out there.


Calibri is relatively new compared to the other fonts. It was developed in 2007 by Microsoft. In fact, Calibri is the default font for Microsoft Office applications.

Its rounded appearance offers clarity for online readability, making it a great accessible font.


Another sans-serif font developed by Microsoft is Tahoma. It was made to address the challenges of on-screen display, particularly when it comes to small texts inboxes and menus.

It features taller characters which makes it great for online legibility.

Century Gothic

Although the name implies age, Century Gothic was actually developed in the 1990s. Similar to Calibri, it features rounded characters that make for a legible font in the digital environment.

How Can I Make My Fonts Accessible?

Font size and typeface influence online reading for better or worse. Again, the overall goal of font accessibility is readability. If there is confusion on website accessibility, it is always advised to consult the WCAG mentioned above.

Also, organizations like Mencap in the UK provide some helpful tips for accessible design for those with learning disabilities.

When choosing an accessible font, here are some principles to consider:

  • Use simple, familiar, and easy-to-read fonts.
  • Avoid small font sizes for body text (stick to 12 to 14-point).
  • Consider spacing and weight of fonts.
  • Limit the number of font variations you use.
  • Use a sufficient color contrast ratio between foreground and background.
  • Avoid decorative fonts that are complex or ambiguous.

Font Size

Font size has a lot to do with overall accessibility. Fonts need to be readable, whether as a heading or captions. The most accessible font sizes for body text are 12-point, 14-point, or 16 pixels.

  • Display headings should be 24-point or more
  • Subheadings can range from 14 – 24-point
  • At a minimum, captions should be no smaller than 8-point font

You want to ensure those with visual impairments will be able to read the content.

Screen Reader Compatibility

Those with visual impairments, such as individuals who are blind, rely on screen readers to interpret the content on a webpage.

For the most part, the best practices and fonts discussed above will not be a barrier to most screen readers.

Proper HTML semantic structure with appropriately marked elements and the proper use of alternate texts (alt texts) is equally as important as a font choice.  

Letter Spacing

Letter spacing and word spacing are also important within blocks of text.  Here is what the WCAG recommends for Text Spacing:

  • Letter spacing to at least 0.12 times the font size
  • Word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size
  • After paragraph spacing to at least 2x the font size
  • Line spacing (line-height) to at least 1.5 times the font size

Text Color

To ensure those with visual impairments have equal access to content, use an accessible color palette; this includes the font color choice and how it contrasts with the background. Avoid red/green and blue/yellow combinations.

Single color backgrounds with sufficient color contrast levels work well, such as a dark-colored text with a light-colored background.

The WCAG also provides suggestions for contrast ratios. For example, smaller texts should have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 against backgrounds. Larger texts (18-point or more) should have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 against the background.


The accessible design seeks to provide equal access to web content for all. This includes choosing an accessible font that can be perceived and understood by those with disabilities.

Sans-serif fonts tend to work the best for online readability and legibility. Plus, most of these can be accessed without having to purchase special licenses to use.

Choosing the right font can make a big difference. Not only does it enhance the overall user experience, but it also helps provide a better way for your content to be enjoyed by all.