Using High Contrast Themes in Windows 10

This past month at my internship, I found that I was experiencing a stronger aversion to light than I normally do, so I decided to try using high contrast themes in Windows 10 to see if that would help me focus better. I was thrilled to find out that the high contrast theme helped me tremendously with reducing eye strain and light sensitivity, and helped me to be more productive at my internship as well. Today I will be sharing my thoughts on using the high contrast themes in Windows 10.

First, what is a high contrast theme?

A high contrast theme or high contrast mode uses a limited color palette with contrasting colors to make an interface easier to use. This is different than using an inverted display, though often times the high contrast mode looks similar to an inverted display because of the darker color scheme. Users with photosensitivity or contrast issues can benefit greatly from using high contrast mode on their computer, as well as people in low-light environments.

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How to enable high contrast themes in Windows 10

To enable high contrast themes in Windows 10, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to the settings menu
  2. In the search bar, type "high contrast settings" and click the first option
  3. Click the slider to turn on high contrast
  4. Alternatively, press the alt key on the left side of the spacebar, along with the left shift key and print screen key

Users can also go to the Ease of Access center and find high contrast options underneath the "Vision" section.

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Choosing custom colors

By default. the theme "High Contrast Black" is enabled when high contrast mode is turned on, though there is also a "High Contrast White" theme and two other high contrast black themes available. If none of these themes suit your needs, you can customize the colors by selecting the colored rectangles in the high contrast options menu and choosing another color. Personally, I prefer the default "High Contrast Black" colors, though if I wanted to use colored text I would choose "High Contrast #1."

Did my accessibility settings change?

High contrast mode is used in addition to other accessibility settings, so if you use a scaled display or magnifier, those settings will remain the same. Anything with an inverted display though will show up as no longer being inverted, so I recommend turning any inverted display settings off.

One thing that does confuse people though is the fact that the computer wallpaper switches to a solid color when high contrast themes are enabled. If needed, users can go to display settings and choose a different wallpaper, but many prefer the solid color.

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Using Microsoft Office with high contrast mode

I spend lots of time using Microsoft Office applications at my internship, and have found that high contrast themes help me to see button shapes more clearly and allow me to type longer since I don't get eyestrain as easily. Typing with the high contrast theme reminds me of reading documents in one of my favorite Microsoft products, Immersive Reader. One important thing to note about reading in high contrast mode is that high contrast themes do not pick up on colored text in Office applications, and it will show up as being invisible. I'm hoping this will be fixed in the future though, and will update this post if I get more information.

How webpages look with high contrast

When using the Microsoft Edge browser, all websites have a dark colored background and the layout is simplified. If I wanted to use high contrast themes in Google Chrome, I would have to enable separate extensions, but I typically use Edge at my internship anyway.

Just for fun. here is what my website looks like with high contrast:

Veronica with four eyes logo in full color on a black background, with white text spelling out the website name and yellow text showing the different web pages

Sample post about creating a disability services file with white text on a black background

Why I'm going to keep using it

Even though I had only planned on using a high contrast theme for a week, I've found that it has helped me so much that I'm going to keep using it at work. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Easier to type in the dark, since I typically keep the overhead lights off in my office and use ambient light from the hallway
  • Better focus, since there aren't so many details on the display
  • Less eyestrain- I haven't come home from work with eyestrain-related pain since I started using the high contrast theme
  • It's easier to read with double vision and when I'm in the early stages of a migraine

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Final thoughts

Using high contrast themes in Windows 10 has helped me tremendously at my internship since I can read and type for long periods of time without getting eyestrain like I normally would. I haven't made the switch to using high contrast mode on my personal computer yet, because I have better control of lighting when I am at home, but I might consider using the theme when taking notes in some of my college classes. I highly recommend trying out the high contrast themes in Windows 10 and seeing how they can benefit users with low vision.