Providing access for people with vision impairment
Accessibility guidelines exist because it is important that products, services and communications provided by Government and organisations are accessible to people living with disability, including vision impairment.
They are simple and easily integrated into everyday life. Here’s a quick guide to providing better access for people with vision impairment.
In Australia, it’s estimated that as many as 1.3 million people have a print disability. People with a print disability can’t read print, either because of vision impairment, a physical, perceptual or intellectual disability, poor literacy or language problems.
Producing publications in alternative formats, such as Braille, gives people with a print disability the opportunity to participate more fully in mainstream Australian life.
The following guidelines will help you prepare printed materials for consumers who are vision impaired.
A strong contrast between type and paper is essential. Use black type on white, yellow or very pale paper. Only use tints behind type if the tint is very pale.
Black ink is preferred. However, other dark print may be used, for example greens, blues, reds or browns, if the ink is dark and the background is very pale.
Avoid using yellows or pale colours on coloured backgrounds, for example grey on blue. Type should only be reversed if the type size is large and thick, for example white type on a black or dark coloured background.
The choice of choice of typeface can make a significant difference. Sans serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are the most accessible. Wherever possible use a standard print size of 12 point. For large print text the recommended size is 18 point.
It can be appropriate to use different typefaces for some applications, like an Excel spreadsheet, posters or displays. Very thin, light, or bizarre typefaces make legibility difficult for people with vision impairment.
Lay information out simply and clearly:
- Leave space between paragraphs
- Don’t cram the page – use a second page when needed
- Have generous margins
- Use a large margin or a vertical rule (for large print) between columns
- Use bold for headings
- Do not underline
- Use italics sparingly
- Use hyphenation sparingly.
Large Print is useful for people who have some vision but can’t read standard size print, particularly for reference material, timetables, etc. Large print requires no special skills or equipment to access, and can benefit even people with slight vision impairments.
Text materials in digital format can be accessed by anyone whose computer has large screen text, voice or Braille output. Digital format is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to provide information to people who are blind or vision impaired.
Audio is suitable for nearly all people with a print disability. Audio material can be produced using a range of recording equipment. If you’re recording a publication intended for wide distribution, for best results material should be recorded on quality equipment, under studio conditions, and by organisations that are familiar with the particular requirements of recording print text in a useful and meaningful way for people with a print disability.
The VisAbility Library has more than 70,000 audio and digital books available free to people with vision impairment or print disability.
The proportion of people with a print disability who can read Braille is relatively small. For those who can read it, however, Braille is the ideal print-alternative, especially for material that will be referred to constantly (such as cookbooks or discussion papers) or which contain forms, diagrams, or other visually presented information. Braille is the most difficult alternative format to produce and requires the use of specialised equipment and knowledge of the Braille Code.
Tactile graphics are used to convey visually presented information such as diagrams, or maps.
Access for people with disabilities is governed by significant Australian legislation and regulations. It is necessary and important. We are committed to working with everyone to make the broader community more accessible to people with a disability.
Nationally, there are three significant regulations that govern access for people with disabilities:
- Disability Discrimination Act (1992) (link opens in new window), specifically the
- Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010
- Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Amendment)
- Building Code of Australia
Website accessibility guidelines
People with a vision impairment might access the web using special assistive software, such as screen readers or screen magnification. This software presents the information from the screen, in either a magnified form (often combined with customised combinations of text and background colour and/or font styles), an audio form via synthesised speech or in a refreshable Braille form.
Examples of barriers that people with low vision or blindness may encounter on the web can include:
- Images that do not have alternative text (text which describes what the image shows)
- Complex images (for example, graphs or charts) that are not adequately described
- Video that is not described in text or audio
- Tables that do not make sense when read serially (in a cell-by-cell or ‘linearised’ mode)
- Frames that do not have “NOFRAME” alternatives, or that do not have meaningful names
- Forms that cannot be tabbed through in a logical sequence or that are poorly labelled
- Browsers and authoring tools that lack keyboard support for all commands
- Browsers and authoring tools that do not use standard applications programmer interfaces for the operating system they are based in
- Non-standard document formats that may be difficult for their screen reader to interpret
- Web pages with fixed font sizes that do not change (enlarge or reduce) easily
- Web pages that, because of inconsistent layout, are difficult to navigate when enlarged, due to loss of surrounding context
- Web pages, or images on web pages, that have poor contrast and whose contrast cannot be easily changed through user override of author style sheets
- Text presented as images, which prevents wrapping to the next line when enlarged
Source: Introduction to Web Accessibility, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (link opens in new window).
Services can be anything that your organisation provides that you want people to understand and connect with. They can range from library and information services, through to recreation and community activities, or specific services such as rubbish collection, tree pruning or local elections.
A few points to consider when planning how to implement, restructure or make a service accessible:
- Plan for how the service will work for people with a print disability at the same time that you are planning for its implementation for everyone else.
- Involve people with a print disability in the planning, implementation and review process.
- Train your staff prior to implementing service delivery.
- Consider how you will promote your service. If you’re intending to inform people of its existence in print, make sure you inform people with a print disability in an alternative / accessible format.
- Look at the building or physical environment in which the service will take place. Are there barriers that will make it difficult for a person with a disability to access that service?
- Consider establishing a contact telephone number which a person with a print disability may call to make arrangements for accessing a particular service.
- Consider the format of all your regular service provision information.
VisAbility’s Accessible Information Services
Our Accessible Information services team can help make your communications conform to accessibility guidelines.
Our services include:
- Website and App accessibility
- Converting documents to Braille or other alternative formats such as large print.
- Physical Access Consulting
- Easy English conversions
- Library services
How to get support
Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about accessibility, our low vision services and support we can provide.