How do you measure color contrast?

In a previous blog post on Color Contrast, we introduced how color contrast principles from the US Access Board are being applied to fitness equipment guidelines to improve accessibility for people with vision impairments.

Our primary question was, ‘How do we measure color contrast?’  Potential methodology was drafted, reviewed, and revised multiple times by experts in various fields relating to the project.  As a result, Beneficial Designs developed a draft method to measure color contrast by using spot-meter technology that is used in the photography industry.  This protocol was recently tested by 7 subjects in the Beneficial Designs’ Laboratory.

Subjects individually made measurements on three pairs of colors on a Standard Color Chart

  • One clearly below 70% contrast
    #17 Magenta was compared to #20 Purple
  • One clearly above 70% contrast
    #2 Light Skin was compared to #10 Purple
  • One very close to 70% contrast
    #16 Yellow / #8 PurplishBlue
Figure 1. Color card with markers for test colors

Figure 1. Color card with markers for test colors

Each of the 7 subjects:

  • Measured the ambient light level at the “signage”
  • Verified that ambient light level is above the minimum requirement
  • Measured the contrast in each color pair using spot meter
  • Made each measurement at a three foot distance
  • Made each measurement on a one-inch radius target
  • Repeated each measurement 3 times
Figure 2. Subject measuring color contrast using a spot meter

Figure 2. Subject measuring color contrast using a spot meter

Each of the 3 measurements were averaged and the color contrast percentage for each color pair was calculated using Equation 1:

Contrast = [(B1 - B2)/B1] x 100                                                    Equation 1

where B1 = light reflectance value (LRV) of the lighter area and
B2 = light reflectance value (LRV) of the darker area.

The color contrast percentages were then compared across subjects. Preliminary data suggests that the calculated color contrast values are repeatable (see Table 1). The protocol will be refined based on test results. The protocol and repeatability results will be presented at the November 2011 ASTM meeting.

Table 1. Color contrast repeatability results across 7 subjects

Color Pair


Standard Deviation

#17 Magenta v #20 Purple



#16 Yellow v #8 PurplishBlue



#2 Light Skin v #10 Purple




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Fitness Guide for Wheelchair Users

Beneficial Design and RERC Rectech Wheelchair User Fitness Equipment Guide

Frequent exercise is important for people of all abilities. In our busy culture, fitness centers often provide the only opportunity to improve overall health, prevent disease, improve moods, and boost energy levels. Anyone entering into a busy fitness center for the first time may be overwhelmed as though they were stepping into a foreign land. Where to start, what to do, and how to use all of the fitness equipment may quickly intimidate any beginner. Additionally, there are many safety precautions that need to be taken into consideration while exercising. For people with disabilities, these issues are magnified and create barriers to physical fitness.

In order to help eliminate some of these barriers, Beneficial Designs, Inc. and The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) are developing a guidebook to lead wheelchair users of all abilities through a safe and productive, step-by-step, fitness routine. The Wheelchair User Guide for Using Fitness Equipment addresses many of the obstacles that a person who uses a wheelchair may encounter and guides the user around those barriers by outlining safe ways to exercise while using a wheelchair.

Specific topics will include positioning and securing the wheelchair, removing seating on fitness equipment, transferring in and out of the wheelchair, increasing the stability of the wheelchair, adaptive equipment, and much more. Pictures and illustrations will help to clarify and familiarize the reader with the various topics and necessary precautions. The guidebook will also safely lead the user through a full exercise routine, beginning with warm-up exercise, stretches, various anaerobic and aerobic exercises using mainstream fitness equipment, and cool down exercises. Throughout the routine, potential dangers, safety precautions, and helpful tips will be included to adequately prepare the wheelchair user for a safe and beneficial workout.

The new guidebook, available spring 2013, will help to educate people who use wheelchairs as well as fitness trainers, thereby opening the door to universal access of fitness equipment and exercise.

Figure 1. Incorret caster position (left) versus correct caster position (right) affects stability

Figure 1. Incorret caster position (left) versus correct caster position (right) affects stability

Figure 2. A a step riser used as a wheel block and/or spotter can be used to increase stability

Figure 2. A a step riser used as a wheel block and/or spotter can be used to increase stability

Stay tuned to NCHPAD for the release of The Wheelchair User Guide for Using Fitness Equipment,

ASTM Standards, Equipment Accessibility, Equipment Design

Active Video Gaming Used to Improve Hand Speed and Range of Finger Motion

Video games are no longer just a leisure-time activity…they could become an integral part of your rehab program. Numerous studies examining the rehabilitative benefits of active video games (AVGs) have found increases in motor control, balance, energy expenditure, and extremity function in people experiencing a wide range of conditions including brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, stroke, spinal-cord dysfunction and frailty. In a small pilot study in teens with cerebral palsy, engineers at Rutgers University combined a Sony PlayStation 3 console with the 5DT Ultra sensing commercial gaming glove to create a system aimed at improving hand speed and range of finger motion. Results showed significant progress in hand function (as assessed by an Occupational Therapist) as a result of playing custom-made games for 30 minutes a day five days a week.  Not only was the system convenient and enjoyable for the teens, after 3 months participants showed progress in the ability to lift large, heavy objects and improvements in activities such as brushing teeth, shampooing, dressing, and using a spoon.


Huber M, Rabin B, Docan C, Burdea G, AbdelBaky M, Golomb M. Feasibility of Modified Remotely Monitored In-Home Gaming Technology for Improving Hand Function in Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy. IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine. 2010;14(2):526-534.

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Upcoming: ASTM F08.30 Fitness Products Meeting

The F08.30 Fitness Products Inclusive Fitness task group was formed to further develop standards for fitness equipment design through ASTM F08.30 Fitness Products (see F08.30 Fitness Products Scope below). The focus of this work is to facilitate access to mainstream fitness equipment to a wider range of the population across all abilities (see WK19803 Scope below).

This work is being done in conjunction with the work that Beneficial Designs, Inc. and the UK Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) started back in the early 2000’s. Beneficial Designs developed the draft Universal Design Fitness Equipment Guidelines for the United States through a National Institutes of Health Phase I grant, visit: Read more »

ASTM Standards, Equipment Accessibility

DOJ Requires Public Fitness Facilities to Provide Accessible Equipment

The intent of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was to facilitate access for people with disabilities to public facilities, including participation in activities within the building structure. The new DOJ (Department of Justice) guidelines recently confirmed this intent by requiring public fitness facilities to provide accessible fitness equipment. Exercise is important and provides many of the same benefits for people with and without disabilities. Increase in activity level decreases secondary conditions and health costs often associated with disability. Affording people with disabilities the opportunity to exercise in public facilities, rather than specialized medical therapy settings, increases the social opportunity to interact with family members and friends. Read more »

Equipment Accessibility

Cygnet- A fun way to excercise while propelling wheelchair

Students at the Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University have designed a device called Cygnet. The Cygnet attaches to a wheelchair which makes the wheelchair propulsion  fun and also a good workout. Read more »

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ASTM November 2011 Committee week- Draft specification for Universal Design of Fitness Equipment

ASTM Draft Specification For Universal Design of Fitness Equipment for Inclusive Use by Persons with Functional Limitations and Impairments WK34535 was out for vote to ASTM F08.30 Fitness Product members from Sept. 15, 2011 – Oct 17, 2011. Comments from this vote will be discussed at the ASTM F08.30 Fitness Products meeting. Read more »

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Virtual Exercise Partner Improves Motivation to Exercise

Can’t find anyone to exercise with? Don’t despair: New research from Michigan State University reveals working out with a virtual partner improves motivation during exercise.

The study led by Deborah Feltz, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Kinesiology, is the first to investigate the Kohler effect on motivation in health video games; that phenomenon explains why inferior team members perform better in a group than they would by themselves.

The research, to be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, was funded by a $150,000 grant from Health Games Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

“Our results suggest working out with virtually present, superior partners can improve motivation on exercise game tasks,” Feltz said. “These findings provide a starting point to test additional features that have the potential to improve motivational gains in health video games.” Read more »

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Department of Justice Response for Proposed Rulings for Fitness Equipment

Over the past years individuals with disabilities have expressed concerns about the inability to use exercise equipment and furniture in health clubs, fitness centers, public recreation centers, and other establishments that offer exercise facilities. In response to these concerns, the Department of Justice sought public input in January 2011 on issues relating to possible revisions of ADA regulations which would ensure the accessibility of related fitness equipment and furniture. The Department also sought background information for the regulatory assessment needed to revise the ADA regulations.

Beneficial Designs, in conjunction with the RERC on Recreation Technology (RecTech), is currently working on a standard for Universally Designed Fitness Equipment. A summary of the comments submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for best practices are provided below: Read more »

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How to stabilize the wheelchair while working out at the Fitness Facility?

Use of fitness equipment is important to individuals of all abilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation must be made to enable users of all abilities to access any equipment in a fitness facility. However, certain precautions must be made by individuals using mobility devices in order to prevent instability and loading hazards. These issues should be taken into consideration, not only by the users themselves, but also by fitness equipment designers and fitness facility management.

The use of fitness equipment by individuals using mobility devices may cause rearward, forward, or lateral instability, in addition to overload problems.
Read more »

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