Understanding of accessible print
There are two million people in the UK with a sight problem. Some of your audience will be blind and partially sighted.
Making information accessible
Why should I make information accessible? Produce your information in a way that ALL your audience can read because:
• It’s fair – Blind and partially sighted people should receive information that is accessible to them. Information enables all of us to make decisions and lead independent lives.
• It’s the law – There is now a legal duty to meet the information needs of your blind and partially sighted customers following the implementation of Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act in October 1999.
• It makes business sense – There are two million people in the UK with a sight problem. This is a sizeable customer base which cannot be ignored. Meeting the needs of all your customers makes good business sense.
Blind and partially sighted people read information in different ways.
For many partially sighted people, well-designed print information using a minimum of 12 point text is enough, although 14 point is recommended, to reach more people with sight problems.
Others will need this information in a different format to standard print. This could be larger print, spoken word audio on cassette tape, braille, electronic documents or over the internet.
One format cannot suit everyone. You should produce information in a range of formats.
Some information should be available from the outset in different formats to standard print, for example information for mass distribution, aimed at older people, or on issues such as health. Other information should be available in different formats when a customer requests it.
When you produce information in a range of alternative formats it should be:
- equivalent quality as standard print
- same price as standard print
- available at same time as standard print
It is essential to plan the production of the alternative formats at the same time as planning your standard print version.
Accessible information guidelines will help you do this by making the production of alternative formats part of the planning process. It will also raise staff awareness of the needs of blind and partially sighted customers.
Once you have produced your alternative formats, you need to let your audience know they are available. Unfortunately, many blind and partially sighted people have low expectations of getting information in a way they can read, so they don’t ask for it. This is often misinterpreted by organisations as lack of demand.
Every standard print publication should have a clear, large print statement (16 point) in a prominent place about the availability of alternative formats. Local radio, public libraries, talking newspapers and local societies for blind and partially sighted people are also useful ways to reach people with sight loss.
The size of the type (known as point size) is a fundamental factor in legibility. We recommend a typeface between 12 to 14 point.
The better the contrast between the background and the text, the more legible the text will be. Note that the contrast will be affected by the size and weight of the type. Black text on white background provides best contrast.
As a general rule, be guided by typefaces such as Helvetica, Univers
and New Century Schoolbook. These are all good examples of clear and legible typefaces.
Avoid simulated handwriting and ornate typefaces as these can be difficult
to read unless used as a graphic only.
Capital letters and italicised text are both generally harder to read. A word or two in capitals is fine but avoid the use of capitals for continuous text. We advise that italic text is not used where an alternative emphasis is available.
The space between one line of type and the next (known as leading) is important. As a general rule, the space should be 1.5 to 2 times the space between words on a line.
People with sight problems often prefer bold or semi-bold weights to normal ones. Avoid light type weights.
If you print documents with numbers in them, choose a typeface in which
the numbers are clear. Readers with sight problems can easily misread 3, 5, 8 and 0.
Ideally, line length should be between 60-70 letters per line. Lines that are too long or too short tire the eyes. The same applies to sentence and paragraph lengths, which should also be neither too long nor too short.
Word spacing and alignment
Keep to the same amount of space between each word. Do not condense or stretch lines of type. We recommend aligning text to the left margin as it is easy to find the start and finish of each line and keeps the spaces even between words. We advise that you avoid justified text as the uneven word spacing can make reading more difficult for people with sight problems.
Make sure the margin between columns clearly separates them. If space is limited, use a vertical rule.
If using white type, make sure the background colour is dark enough to provide sufficient contrast.
Avoid fitting text around images if this means that lines of text start in a different place, and are therefore difficult to find. Set text horizontally as text set vertically is extremely difficult for a partially sighted reader to follow. Avoid setting text over images, for example photographs. This will affect the contrast and, if a partially sighted person is avoiding images, they will miss the text.
Partially sighted people tend to have handwriting that is larger than average, so allow extra space on forms. This will also benefit people with conditions that affect the use of their hands, such as arthritis.
It is helpful if recurring features, such as headings and page numbers, are always in the same place. A contents list and rules to separate different sections are also useful. Leave a space between paragraphs as dividing the text up gives the eye a break and makes reading easier.
Avoid glossy paper because glare makes it difficult to read. Choose uncoated paper that weighs over 90 GSM. As a general rule, if the text is showing through from the reverse side, then the paper is too thin.
When folding paper, avoid creases which obscure the text. People who use screen magnifiers need to place the document flat under the magnifier, so try not to use a binding method that may make it difficult to flatten the document.
For many blind and partially sighted people, larger print is essential. No single size is suitable for everyone, but most people prefer their large print in the range of 16 to 22 point.