By: Carmen Willings
In order to successfully read print, the student must be provided with print that is legible. Not only should there be consideration for the type style and fonts that are used, but there must be consideration for the quality of copies. In an effort to conserve money, many schools set copiers and printers to print at low resolutions.
The quality of print that is produced becomes an obstacle for students who can otherwise successfully access standard print. Additionally, there is a trend of teachers reducing the pages in order to fit two pages on one page, thus conserving paper. Teachers need to be aware that this can not be an option for students with visual impairments.
Always use the highest contrast possible. Use light (white or light yellow) letters on a dark (black or dark colored) background or dark letters on light or white background. The following is a visual example of good and bad contrast.
It is important to know the ideal point size for the student for both near, mid-range and distance tasks. Keep in mind that the relationship between readability and point size differs among typefaces used.
Providing students with fonts that are legible will be necessary for all students in order to access print. While there is little information on the comparative legibility of typefaces, there is some evidence that an ordinary typeface, using upper and lower cases, is more readable than italics, slanted, small caps, or all caps. Avoid complicated, decorative fonts, and reserve such styles, for emphasis only. The goal is to use easily recognizable characters such as Arial, Verdana, Tahoma and Sans Serif versions of any typeface are often more legible, since the letters are simple. APH offers a free downloadable font, APHont, that was developed specifically for low vision readers. The entire APHont Suite is available free-of-charge to qualified users for non-commercial purposes.
The following is an example of popular fonts. Each word was written in the same point size but there is a large difference in readability.
Text with close letter-spacing often presents difficulties for readers who have low vision, especially those with central visual field defects. Where possible, spacing should be wide. The recommended spacing between lines of text, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, is 1.5, rather than single space. AFB further states that text with letters that are too close together can make text more difficult to read.
It may be helpful to teach the student to place a strip of paper of a simple bookmark above or below the line or word being read to help with place finding. Some students will need a line guide that is paired with a highlighter to increase the contrast while helping them keep their place. For students that have difficulty with a line guide or bookmark, use a typo-scope (a card with a rectangular hole to expose a few words or a line at a time). A typo-scope can be made by cutting a window in dark paper to isolate words, lines, or single elements within pictures.
Paper with a glossy finish can lessen legibility as it creates problems with glare. When possible, use papers with a flat finish.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.