Did you know that 70% of Americans with significant sight loss are not employed full time? But as ever with Salesforce, where there’s a will there’s a way! There are tools that can assist those with significant vision impairments (a minimum of 3% of the population) to make the best use of Salesforce.
Like any disability (and most things in life), these visual disabilities exist along a spectrum. Not only is that spectrum from “somewhat less vision than 20/20” to “no vision at all,” but there are varying types of eye (and brain) conditions that cause distortion, cloudiness, loss of central or peripheral vision, light sensitivity, and more.
Even if someone doesn’t have a diagnosed visual disability, temporary issues such as migraines can cause problems reading a computer screen, including photophobia (extreme light sensitivity) or the need for magnification or higher contrast, which means some of the same tools and concepts can be helpful for a wide audience.
In this article, we’ll cover the tools that can assist those with significant vision impairments, including screen reader software, magnification, operating system adjustments, and browser plugins.
Screen Reader Software
Screen readers take all text on the screen (or behind the scenes in some cases) and turn it into audio or braille output. JAWS and NVDA generally handle the front end of Salesforce quite well, though there are a few hiccups here and there such as when working with the report builder.
The backend is also generally screen reader friendly, though workarounds are sometimes needed to help blind Salesforce professionals do their jobs in the same manner as their fully sighted peers.
All web browsers offer the ability to zoom in by holding the control or command key and scrolling the mouse or using the +/- keys. Unfortunately, zooming in with the browser is often clunky in the Salesforce user interface. List views can become compacted to the point that only one or two lines are visible. This is where magnification tools or programs come in.
Most operating systems have a built-in magnification option, including Windows magnifier or Zoom on Mac. However, the commercial options that exist tend to have more robust features, such as ZoomText and SuperNova.
Browser zoom presents something more like the above screenshot – the names of all the objects are no longer visible. Instead, with a magnification tool you can simply move your mouse to highlight the area of focus:
Color Processing (Dark Themes/Dark Mode)
Not all users with visual disabilities require magnification – or even find it beneficial. Some users still need a different way to display the Salesforce interface, for example because of cataracts (clouding of the cornea), migraines, etc. In these cases, dark mode can be beneficial.
For some, the availability of dark mode can mean the difference between being able to use a product and not being able to use it at all (or at certain times). Here are some of the ways you can enable dark mode…
Note: Dark mode isn’t for everyone – studies have shown that for many users, light mode is more beneficial.
System-Level Dark Modes/Themes
Every operating system has a built-in dark theme or dark mode, but not all system-wide dark modes are created equal. By enabling “high contrast mode” (Windows 10) or contrast themes (Windows 11), your browser (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) will use the same theme across all sites.
Turning on the system dark mode on Mac means that only sites that are designed to work with a dark theme will display in the same dark mode; sites that are not designed for it will display normally.
The problem with system-wide dark modes or contrast themes is that they do one thing and do it well – almost too well. If it helps you for all the colors normally found on a website to be narrowed down to three or four, great! But for some, this will make websites like Salesforce even harder to read.
Sometimes, the way people process things can make certain tasks more difficult. Notice the “bell icon” in the top right corner of the image below. The notification count is not on a red background like normal, and is therefore harder to see. The app launcher is also much harder to find.
Radio buttons, such as when choosing record type, can also be a problem, as there is no way to tell what state is active. Fortunately help is at hand…
There are many browser plugins that have different functionalities – no one plugin is perfect for everyone. For example, some browser plugins are more suitable for users that don’t need a system-wide dark mode or have problems with the way it processes colors.
The ones below are listed in alphabetical order. Users may need to use a combination, depending on the specific Salesforce activity they are performing.
- Dark Background and Light Text: Quickly switches between processing a website in three different ways – complex stylesheet processing, simple CSS processing, and color value inversion. Often, one of these ways is enough, though there are other extensions that don’t seem to need as much versatility in processing.
- Dark Mode: This extension, while not very configurable, does a good job at processing colors without user customization. Available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera browsers
- Dark Reader: Has fairly limited options, but works well in some situations where other browser extensions might not (such as dashboards). Available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari.
- Midnight Lizard: A very robust tool that gives quite a few options, but it tends to have issues with refreshing items on the screen at times and can slow the browser down significantly. Available for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox
- Night Eye: Free to use in one browser at a time, but they have several premium plans that allow syncing across multiple browsers. Available for a wide range of browsers: Brave Browser, Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Safari, UC Browser, Vivaldi, and Yandex.
- Night Mode Pro: This extension allows changing of the hue, brightness, contrast, and other visual qualities of a page and includes grayscale and sepia modes. Available for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.
- Super Dark Mode: Has few options, but its simplicity makes it attractive for certain use cases. Available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera.
This is an ever-evolving market and there are even more extensions available, typically listed on each brower’s plugin/app store.
Salesforce has a commitment to accessibility that rivals any company out there. But even with that commitment, there are times when tools are needed beyond what is available built in. Fortunately, there are accessibility tools available from many places to meet the varying needs of a diverse workforce.
As an extra observation, the language surrounding disability varies widely around the world. In some places, the term “impairment” is preferred over “disability.” In the United States, acceptance of the word “disability” is preferred by the community. As the author of this article is from the US, the term “visual disability” was chosen over the use of “visual impairment.”
P.S. If you liked this article, pay it forward and upvote this idea for native dark mode within Salesforce.
- For perspective, see a simulation of a variety of low vision scenarios
- Summer 2023 Salesforce accessibility improvements for low-vision users
- Lightning Experience Tips for Screen Readers
- Salesforce web content accessibility violations team contact details
- Salesforce accessibility and ally overview
- Introduction to general tools available for PC users with visual impairments
- Why Accessibility Matters for Architects