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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Tips for Making Print More Readable

Low vision often makes reading a difficult task in the following situations:

  • When a reduced amount of light can enter the eye

  • When the image on the retina is blurred

  • When the central portion of the retina (the macula) needed for reading is defective

The contrast of the print on its background is affected by reduced light and blurring. The damage to the central retina interferes with the ability to see small print, and to make necessary eye movements involved in reading.

The following guidelines make print more legible for individuals with vision problems and for the general public as well. Therefore, they are important for universal design.

Print Size

Large print type should be used, preferably 18 point, but at a minimum 16 point. Scalable fonts on the computer make this easy to do.

Font Type and Style

The goal in font selection is to use easily recognizable characters, either standard Roman or Sans Serif fonts. A good choice is Arial.

  • Avoid decorative fonts.

  • Use bold type because the thickness of the letters makes the print more legible.

  • Avoid using italics or all capital letters. Both these forms of print make it more difficult to differentiate among letters.

Use of Color

The use of different colored lettering for headings and emphasis is difficult to read for many people with low vision. When used, dark blues and greens are most effective.

Contrast

Contrast is one of the most critical factors in enhancing visual functioning, for printed materials as well as in environmental design. Text should be printed with the best possible contrast. For many older people light lettering—either white or light yellow—on a dark background, usually black, is easier to read than black lettering on a white or light yellow background.

Paper Quality

Avoid using glossy finish paper such as that typically used in magazines and some journals. Glossy pages create excess glare, which makes it more difficult for people with low vision to read.

Leading (Space Between Lines of Text)

The recommended spacing between lines of text is 1.5, rather than single space. Many people who are visually impaired have difficulty finding the beginning of the next line when single spacing is used.

Tracking (Space Between Letters)

Text with letters very close together makes reading difficult for many people who are visually impaired, particularly for those who have central visual field defects, such as older persons with macular degeneration. Spacing between letters should be wide—for example, a mono-spaced font such as Courier, which allocates an equal amount of space for each letter, is very readable.

Margins

Many low vision devices, such as stand magnifiers and closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) are easiest to use on a flat surface. An extra-wide binding margin makes it easier to hold the material flat. A minimum of one inch should be used; one and a half inches is preferable.

Research is still underway to determine how text can be made more legible for individuals with limited vision.

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