Living with Low Vision

Large print is helpful to low vision people. However, certain guidelines should be observed. First, NEVER use all capital letters […]

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Large print is helpful to low vision people. However, certain guidelines should be observed. First, NEVER use all capital letters to make print larger. In most fonts, the lines that make up capital letters are more complex. Printing in “all caps” makes reading harder, not easier. Second, use a font that uses strong lines to make up each letter or character. Avoid those whose lines are thin or indistinct. Third, avoid fancy or “artistic” fonts, especially script or “handwritten” typefaces. Their complexity makes reading more difficult. For general usefulness, fonts from the Helvetica family, such as Arial, work very well. Fourth, employ maximum contrast between the print (black) and the background (white). Avoid brown print on a badge background, dark blue on light blue, or dark backgrounds such as bright red or bright green. Restaurants: please take notice! Avoid paper that has a glossy finish. In certain lights, such a finish produces a glare effect. Finally, create a little extra blank space between lines, such as 1.25 or 1.50. Single spaced type sometimes produces too little space between lines, but double spacing creates too much. Low vision readers will thank you for adopting these simple strategies.

Low Vision and Human Relationships

Consider this formula: 10% of a visual impairment is the impairment itself; 40% is how the low vision person adjusts to the impairment; and 50% is how the impairment affects relationships with other people. Many people suffer embarrassment because they don’t remember an acquaint-ance’s name upon meeting. Often, low vision people can’t identify the person at all. If I meet someone on the street who greets me, my only recourse, no matter how embarrassing, is to request identification. Identify yourself first! This ends the awkwardness quickly. If a low vision person doesn’t respond to your greeting, it is probably because he or she is trying to figure out who you are—it is not a snub. Low vision people usually do not perceive facial expressions, body language or other visual cues about how the relationship is going. Such people rely almost exclusively on verbal communication. If I say something that causes you to frown, you are sending a message of displeasure. Since I don’t get that message, I proceed as if you hadn’t reacted at all. You may then think I didn’t care how you felt. Things can quickly go downhill from there. In a low vision relationship, remember that when you send visual messages, there’s nobody home at that number. Low vision people are constantly endangered by isolation and loneliness because the world around them is full of secret messages that they know exist but can’t receive. Finally, many “normal” people are afraid of low vision people, because they don’t know what the rules of contact are. If in doubt, ask. Always!

According to the Graphic Artists Guild Web site, the symbol for large print is “Large Print” printed in 18 pt. or larger text. In addition to indicating that large print versions of books, pamphlets, museum guides and theater programs are available, you may use the symbol on conference or membership forms to indicate that print materials may be provided in large print. (

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