Communicating with people with a visual impairment or who are blind
Always include information on your document about the availability of other formats such as: "This information is available in Braille, in large print, on a Word document, or on audio. Please contact [Hantsdirect number]." This information should be in large print, i.e. no smaller than 16 point but preferably in 18 point, Arial bold and sometimes Verdana bold are recommended for people with visual impairments.
For written communications for people with a visual impairment or who are blind, you need to take into account the publications guidance, and also consider the Royal National Institiute for the Blind's (RNIB) Clear print guidelines.
The RNIB's Clear print guidelines
- The size of the type (known as point size) is very important. We recommend a type size of 14 point. The larger the minimum type size, the more people you will reach.
- 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 a yellow or white background provides best contrast.
- Avoid highly stylised typefaces, such as those with ornamental, decorative or handwriting styles. Arial bold and Verdana bold are recommended.
- Blocks of capital letters, underlined or italicised text are all harder to read. A word or two in capitals is fine but avoid the use of capitals for continuous text. Underlining text or setting it in italics should always be avoided and an alternative method of emphasis used.
- 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.Scalable fonts become bolder as the size is increased, without the need to use Bold as this does thicken the font and can sometimes cause reading problems as it is too bold! If you are using 12 pt then using bold will be fine.
- 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.so it is better to write numbers out in full, so 'three. five, eight or zero.'
- 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 of the next 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.
- 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 are staggered rather than neatly lined up, and are therefore difficult to read. Set text horizontally as text set vertically is extremely difficult for a partially sighted reader to follow. Avoid setting text over images or textures as this will affect the contrast.
- 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 would be useful to use thick line or box, where need to sign if applicable
- 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 90gsm. As a general rule, if the text is showing through from the reverse side, then the paper is too thin.
We suggest you prepare one master copy in large print so that you can duplicate it when you are asked to.
It is tempting to use a photocopier's enlargement facility to produce large print from your original document but this can distort the text, making it hard to read. It is far better to print off originals as and when you need them.
Follow the RNIB's Clear print guidelines and also the following advice.
- Use a minimum of 14 point for body text and a larger type size for headings. Ask your customer which size best suits their needs - many blind and partially sighted people prefer their large print between 16 and 22 point. It is probably not realistic to produce large-print versions of lengthy documents with body text that is larger than 18 point, so you might want to consider producing an audio tape instead.
- Use horizontal lines to aid the legibility of tables, but make sure there is a clear space between the lines and text.
- Lightweight publications, which are simple to hold open, may be easier for some people to handle.
- Don't leave large areas of white space between sections in a large print document - people with poor sight may find it hard to scan down a page and may miss information if it is separated from the main part of the text.
- Summaries: for very large documents, it might be acceptable to produce a large-print summary of the information. Otherwise, a large-print version of the complete document could run into hundreds of pages.
- Large print on the web: if your information is being published on Hantsweb, you might be able to print off a copy to use as the large-print version. Readers with access to a computer can enlarge the type size themselves.
- Scanning text: make sure that your document can be opened flat to help people who are using a scanner or screen magnifier. Some scanners do not pick up all colours, so it is safest to provide a black and white large-print version.
- Other formats