Many people who are called "blind" have some vision. Some people may be able to read large print and move about without use of a white cane or guide dog in many or all situations, may be able to perceive light and darkness, and perhaps see some colors. Some people may have better vision one day than another, or see better in certain lighting conditions.
People who have low vision or are blind employ different techniques to do things, according to their preferences, skills, and needs. For example, to access printed material, some people may use Braille; others may use large print, magnifiers and telescopes, closed-circuit TVs, computer-generated text-to-voice, or audio-publications on tape or CD.
Remember, each person is unique, whether or not they are blind or have vision problems. Therefore, it is impossible to make universal statements about what will enable us all, in our diversity, to be welcomed and be able to fully participate. The following suggestions can assist you in making your workshops more welcoming, but is with all reciprocal relationships, it is always important and appropriate to ask your individual participants what will help them feel most included.
Reading and Writing
Hints to Help Create Larger/Clearer Print Documents
Paper and ink. Use matte non-glossy paper, either white or pastel color. Some people with low vision prefer yellow paper. Use black or dark blue ink.
Font. Use 14 or 16 point Arial. Do not underline and avoid using capital letters in blocks of text because they are harder to read. Do use them in headlines or in single words to emphasize them. Avoid using italics because they are harder to read. In general, use bold letters to emphasize words.
Numbers. Numbers 3, 5, 6 and 8 are hard to read. Where you can, spell out the number like "the meeting will begin at eight o'clock."
Spacing. Left justified text is clearer. Center text for titles and headings. Don't squeeze or stretch text. Don't right justify even if you are using two columns. Leave enough space between columns so that people don't read across the whole page.
Design. Keep it simple and uncluttered. Avoid wrapping text around a graphic when it produces an uneven left hand edge. Make the margins smaller to fit more text in. Avoid double-sided printing if it leaves a gray shadow on the paper's other side.
Paragraphs. Instead of indenting, leave a line space between paragraphs.
Page numbers and symbols. Page numbers, headers, and footers, should be the same font size as the rest of the text. If you are providing both large and smaller print versions, it may be helpful to indicate the print page (pp) as well. Keep brackets, parentheses, colons, dashes, slashes, etc. to a minimum.
Hasty larger print documents. Changing font size on your computer is simple. Also, if you need to, large print copies can be made on your copy machine by enlarging 8.5 x 11-inch documents to 11 x 17-inch paper. But this is not ideal because the larger paper is difficult to handle and it focuses on a person's disability. It often does work though. Enlarge approximately 135-150 percent depending on your margins. Try a page to make sure you are not losing any text on the edges.
Hints for Creating Electronic Versions of Handouts
Many people who are blind or who have low vision rely on their computer's text-to-speech features to read printed documents. You can e-mail electronic versions of handouts to participants who request them, you can share a Microsoft Word version of the handout on compact disc, or you can give participants a link to the Principled Commitment web page that contains the handout.
Note that most participants will not have their computers with them during the workshop, so this option works only for handouts that are not completed or engaged during the workshop.
Hints for Creating Audio Versions of Handouts
Many people who are blind or visually impaired are accustomed to listening to recorded texts. Offering audio versions of handouts can reach the widest range of blind or visually impaired readers. Blind or visually impaired people are likely to have access to audio cassette, compact disc, or mp3 players. Ask your participants which format is best for them.
You can record audio versions of handouts as well as each week's Taking It Home for participants. Record in a clear, pleasant voice with a good microphone and little background noise.
If a handout is to be read during a workshop, rather than after, you can offer it for in-class listening (with headphones). Alternately, you or a participant may read the handout aloud.
For more information, see adapted from A Guide to Making Documents Accessible to People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired from the National Federation of the Blind.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Saturday, October 29, 2011.
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