In the world today, there are a growing number of people who are classified as visually impaired. Older people are losing some or all of their vision, many have eye conditions that show up later in life. Some people are born visually impaired and their parents spend many years trying to determine exactly how much they can see. For these people, life can be frustrating and confusing to them and those around them. How much can you see? Can you see color? Do you use a cane? How far can you see? Can you read print and how large does it need to be? Believe it or not, sometimes I’m glad for the easy answer I have for people, I am totally, completely and unequivocally blind.
In many ways, reading at least has been made easier for people with low vision. Computers can be made to enlarge, there is magnification software available. Along with that, it is easier to provide materials in large print than it used to be. I myself was born with low vision and read large print, this was almost 20 years ago. At school, I used a CCTV made by Visualtek, which technology was very crude compared with today’s standards. Basically, it was a monitor with an attached tray where your book would fit. There were knobs on the monitor that would make things large and you could adjust it to whatever size you needed, then move the tray around to read the book or paper. I didn’t have such a machine at home, it was too large and expensive. So I used magnifiers, wore huge glasses and found that though I could read most large print, it was a very slow, hard and frustrating process.
I found it interesting to know that the font style plays a huge part in how someone with low vision can read materials. In an article entitled; “Fonts for low vision readers,” there are six clearly defined rules as to how to best prepare material that is not only large enough, but the correct style to suit the reader. I like the statement that “the simpler, the bolder, the better.” I have memories of trying to decipher funny print and though I could usually figure it out, it really slowed me down. There is also a software called APHONT, developed by the American Printing House for the Blind that will automatically turn materials into the most accessible fonts.
Living with low vision is not always easy, yet you want to use that vision and be able to read quickly and comfortably. I remember sitting up late at night trying to read homework, sometimes wishing I could just listen to a book rather than dealing with eye strain and headaches. Having my printed material formatted to make reading less painstaking would have meant the world to me. So the next time you are preparing material for people with low vision, whatever media you use, be sure to consider your options and help to make life a little less frustrating for a growing number of individuals!