Anyone know what the WCAG2.0 definition of 'Normal' and 'Large' fonts are, as they relate to the AA and AAA levels?

I've googled and read the WCAG site and docs but unless I'm being really stupid (wouldn't rule it out) I just can't find it.

Ideally I'm looking for something along the lines of "18pt or larger is defined as large for WCAG guidelines" or something equivalent.

  • I have a question about really large sizes, like 40pt, 60pt, etc. If a colour passes as AA for 18pt, would it pass AAA at 40, for example? Is there a way to tell?
    – Farah
    Commented May 28 at 22:38

5 Answers 5


@Nick Fine - did you read this page? http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/visual-audio-contrast-contrast.html

"Text that is larger and has wider character strokes is easier to read at lower contrast. The contrast requirement for larger text is therefore lower. This allows authors to use a wider range of color choices for large text, which is helpful for design of pages, particularly titles. 18 point text or 14 point bold text is judged to be large enough to require a lower contrast ratio. (See The American Printing House for the Blind Guidelines for Large Printing and The Library of Congress Guidelines for Large Print under Resources). "18 point" and "bold" can both have different meanings in different fonts but, except for very thin or unusual fonts, they should be sufficient. Since there are so many different fonts, the general measures are used and a note regarding fancy or thin fonts is included."

Thought that was a pretty reasonable explanation, as for the size, I'd defer to the 'experts' as I have no access to alternative research that shows anything to the contrary.

  • That's perfect Nathan, thanks...just what I was looking for.
    – Nick Fine
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 11:39

Not sure if there is a specific W3C requirement for standard and large font sizes but they do describe 'large scale text' as:

"with at least 18 point or 14 point bold or font size that would yield equivalent size for Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) fonts"


Resizing font is certainly a 'AA' requirement however:


I have always advised clients to adopt a 12pt standard font size.


As others have pointed out, WCAG 2.0 says:

18 point text or 14 point bold text is judged to be large enough to require a lower contrast ratio.

However, it’s important to remember that 18pt =/= 18px. Make sure your text is at least 24px to be considered large or 18.5px bold:

Note 1: When evaluating this success criterion, the font size in points should be obtained from the user agent or calculated on font metrics in the way that user agents do. Point sizes are based on the CSS pt size as defined in CSS3 Values. The ratio between sizes in points and CSS pixels is 1pt = 1.333px, therefore 14pt and 18pt are equivalent to approximately 18.5px and 24px.

source: https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/visual-audio-contrast-contrast.html


The standard or "normal size" is 1em as this doc says:


and as Gavin Harris quote from WCAG says "18pt or 14pt bold in ems are like 1.5em and 1.2em".

  • I think a better interpretation of that is the recommendation is 'don't set a font size and let the default be the default". The problem with that is that traditionally, the default fonts in browsers were actually unusually large. While larger than normal type is less of an issue than smaller than normal type, larger type isn't always a benefit for better readability either.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 17:25

WCAG 2.0 says large text is 18pt or 14pt bold - this allows you to use colours with a smaller contrast ratio - they don't (from memory) specify a 'minimum' font size overall, but I try and stick to 12pt. Using ems would suffice - if - you set your base font to 12pt to start with.

  • 1
    18pt I can understand, but 14pt is really considered as large text for legibility/accessibility?! Given at 12pt is many people's 'normal' I find it hard to believe that 14pt gives sufficient character thickness and contrast to be considered large. I think the standards should at least give guidelines that we can actually use, rather than interpret - i.e. at least give some guidance for designers working in points, not ems.
    – Nick Fine
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 8:07
  • I always thought the std was actually pretty clear, and I relied on the 'expertise' of the creators of the stds to say what was considered acceptable. See my other answer as it wouldnt fit here...
    – Nathan-W
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 8:39
  • 1
    The issue is that typography is a rather large realm full of all sorts of variables. Combine that with technology, and the variables become overwhelming. It'd be very difficult to simply state a rule that applies in all situations easily. I think the W3C getting more specific in their guidelines would actually be a rather large hindrance as the W3C simply can't keep pace with how fast the web evolves. Leaving wiggle room in the spec's and recommendations allows one to evolve their techniques based on current trends, tech and research.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 13:29
  • 1
    I also find any talk of font sizes in terms of accessibility on the web to be completely out of date. Browsers universally can scale type to a user's preference. Admittedly, a lot of users may not be aware of the feature, but it's become a rather standard feature that they should be leveraging. One of the major benefits of the web is that the content can be tailored by the end users to their liking.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 13:31
  • @DA I agree with you, in principle, unfortunately working on a large number of public sector (government) websites means for me, font size and WCAG is always being talked about. Im supposed to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA across every aspect of the site. Doing fonts the WCAG way is an easy win :)
    – Nathan-W
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 20:39

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