Making Print Accessible to the Blind

Making Print Accessible to the Blind & Visually Impaired

There are nearly two million blind or partially sighted people in the UK.

People who are blind or partially sighted, or ‘visually impaired’ can be defined as having a sight defect which cannot be corrected by glasses alone.

All blind and partially sighted individuals have different requirements when it comes to the production of printed materials.

Here are a few steps to make your printed materials more accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

Make Your Text Clear

All documents should be produced in clear print.

The minimum point size for clear print is 14.
The point size for large print is 16 – 22.

Remember to build the production of a range of accessible formats, such as tape, MP3 and Braille, into your production schedule and budget.

Font Choice

Always use a sans serif font.
Fonts such as Arial, Helvetica and Futura are easier to read.

Some clear serif fonts such as Baskerville or classic
Garamond may be used for small sections where a different
text is required.

As a general rule avoid using highly stylised typefaces.
The use of handwriting requires felt tip pens, thicker lines and
larger writing.

Accessible Fonts for Blind and Visually Impaired people

Font Styles

Avoid italics and the underlining of text.

The type weight of headings should be bold or semi bold.
In body copy, however, bold type and the use of italics should only be used sparingly, for emphasis, as it can be difficult to read in large amounts.

Avoid upper casing. Capital letters give less variation and so are more difficult to read quickly.
Titles Should Be Written In Both Upper And Lower Case.

Design & Layout

Keep designs simple to ensure they stand out. The design and layout should remain consistent throughout the publication.

Always keep the layout clear and logical with easy to follow content, lists and headings.

Text is easier to read when broken up into short paragraphs with plenty of space.

Ensure consistency in the spacing between each word. Never try and fit more text into a space by reducing the spacing between letters, words or lines.
Using short columns will also aid those people reading the document with the help of CCTVs.

Columns should not be too close together.

Leading: As a general rule the space between one line and the next should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the space between the words on a line. The text should always be aligned to the left margin. The uneven right hand margin allows the eye to track more quickly to the next line.

Centred text is unclear. Avoid setting text over an image. Text set vertically is also difficult to read.

Avoid hyphenating words in text as it disrupts the reading flow. This is particularly important to remember when using word processors or desktop publishing as software packages will have their own default settings.

Do not print near folds as materials need to be held flat under
a magnifier. Perfect binding is difficult to flatten.

Colours & Contrast

Sharply contrasting colours are much clearer for people with sight conditions.

Individual preferences vary but black on white or black on yellow are generally regarded as the clearest combinations.
If using reversed type, try to avoid switching between dark on light and light on dark as this can be confusing to the eye. Light out of dark can have less glare.

Font size also has to be increased and made bolder when reversing out.

Making Print Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired Users

Using Numbers

Keep numbers distinctive.
Numbers such as 3, 5, 8, 0 and 6 can be confused or misread in certain typefaces. To avoid confusion, 1 – 9 should be written in full. Use numerals from 10.

Print Finishes & Paper Choice

Paper with a matt finish is always preferable since glossy surfaces can create a glare which makes text and images difficult to recognise. This is very important when material is viewed with assistive technology.

Using lightweight or thin paper can also cause problems as any printing on the reverse will show through. A minimum of uncoated 100 gsm will avoid this problem.

Forms & Response Mechanisms

Design all response forms carefully. People with a visual impairment may have larger handwriting and need more space in which to write.

Any boxes for writing or putting a tick in should therefore be of sufficient size and clearly associated with the text to which they refer.

Accessible Application Forms in Print

Things to Remember

Don’t assume these guidelines apply to everyone who is blind or partially sighted!

Everyone has individual needs; so ask people which is their preferred format.

No demands are unreasonable as everyone should have equal access to information