Literature and Application forms
For people with a visual impairment, the standard methods of advising customers about a new service may not be effective. Therefore, is it necessary to produce information leaflets and application forms in a range of alternative formats, such as large print, braille, audio tape and electronic text file. To support this, processes should be put in place to allow appropriate formats to be available on request. For people with an intellectual impairment, all information should be available in clear, simple language.
Users may be unaware of the services being offered if the information does not reach them in a form that they can easily read and understand.
many people find it difficult to understand complicated written text. Overall, 22.6% of the irish population are "functionally illiterate" (source: united nations Undp), meaning that, while they can read to some degree, they would have difficulty reading a newspaper, filling in a form or following the instructions on a medicine bottle. Similarly, people whose first language is not english, such as first-generation immigrants or foreign visitors, may have some reading ability but it may be low.
Literacy is also a problem for people who are deaf. A 1993 nrb survey found that 80% of deaf adults in Ireland had the reading age of an 8 to 9 year old. This is due to the difficulties of learning through sign language, which has a different grammar and structure to spoken or written language, or by lip reading.
There are various cognitive impairments, the best known being dyslexia, which also cause difficulty in reading complicated written text.
Directions and techniques
Aim for clarity at all time when choosing a typeface or designing a layout. If in doubt, keep it simple.
- Depending on the typeface used, 12 point could be considered as the minimum type size for standard format.
- 14 point is commonly used, so more people can access the standard format.
- Print above 16 point is considered to be large print.
- Use medium or bold formats; avoid light fonts (i.e. those with light in the name), which can be difficult to read.
- Use bold for emphasis (instead of using all capital letters) since words are often recognisable by their shape. if using bold, ensure white space within characters is not detrimentally diminished.
- Reversing out (white letters through a black block) only works if the size and weight of characters are sufficiently bold. this design is best used sparingly and on computer screens.
- Choose a clear, easy-to-read typeface that will distinguish between characters and numerals.
- Ensure sufficient kerning between specific characters, e.g. ensure characters do not run together to form other characters.
- Word spacing should be even.
- Linked paragraphs should not be widely spaced.
- Initials or words should not be divided or split across a line break.
- The space between lines (known as leading) should be generous but not too generous. it could prove difficult to find the start of the next line (return sweep). the space between lines also depends on line length, e.g. shorter line lengths (columns) require less leading.
- Indents, if used, should not drive too far in.
- Use 55-60 characters per line.
- Aim for a clear contrast, as high as possible, between the text/image on the page and the background colour.
- White/off-white/cream paper creates the best contrast with black ink.
- Avoid printing text over photographs or illustrations or over a wash, effect or tint that reduces contrast and clarity.
Layout and design
- Good layout and design should help to guide the reader around the material.
- Keep layouts clear and clean.
- Group information logically.
- Guide the user with a contents page, index, headings, page numbers and numbered sections where possible.
- Break up large blocks of text with space, bullet points or cross-references (a relevant word or few words of copy inserted where it is appropriate in the text).
- Conversion from standard print to large print size may make it necessary to alter the layout, especially where the original is in columns. check the page beginnings and endings, as these will have changed.
- Do not range text around picture objects, as varying line lengths can be hard to read.
- Avoid the use of italics.
- Do not use underlining.
- Minimise all caps.
- Allow white space around columns.
- A vertical line will help to guide the reader's eye.
- Use left justification with a ragged right margin to avoid uneven spacing between words.
- Do not split words at the ends of lines.
- Avoid hyphenation.
Pictures or diagrams
The contents of a graph, for example, should be explained in words also. For more on how to write sensible descriptions for images and graphics see the relevant guidance in the web developers section
Production and presentation
- When selecting paper, use a matt rather than glossy finish to reduce glare; choose a weight that obscures any show-through of print, a minimum of 90gsm.
- Avoid leaflets that unfold to a3 or larger as they can be difficult to handle.
- Books and booklets open flat if they are wire or comb-bound rather than perfect-bound.
- Consider having 2 or 3 sections as separate booklets if the information is very bulky to handle.
- Design materials for easy storage on standard bookshelves.
Content of audio tape
- Give a summary of the subject and a contents list at the start.
- Number items and use the numbers in the contents list and at the start of each item.
- Place key information such as contact numbers, addresses, and key facts and figures at the beginning or end of the side or item so that they are easy to find and to refer back to,
- Explain what is coming next so the listeners can decide whether to carry on listening or skip to the next item.
- Separate items clearly with a short silence, piece of music and/or tone indexing,
- Always spell any complicated words or names,
- Say when the recording or side is ending so the listener knows that the silence is not due to a fault on the tape or the machine,
Distribution of audio tape
- Package audio tapes in card slip covers rather than plastic boxes. shattered plastic can be dangerous and there is no danger of card covers breaking in the post,
- Label both the tape and the cover with the title and/or contents and date of production in as large print as space allows,
Preparing text for brailing
- It might be necessary to edit the text before transcription, parts of the text might need adapting for braille readers,
- It might also be necessary to make some changes to the way the text is structured. for example: columns should be avoided if possible. most formatting and graphical characters, such as bullets, may not be of any use in braille. often there is no braille equivalent.
Printing of braille
- A4-sized sheets of braille are easiest to handle and multiple sheets of braille open easily when comb-bound.
- A coversheet with details of the title, contents and date of production in both braille and print will be helpful for identification.
Many blind and visually impaired people, particularly those in work, have access to computer equipment that makes written information accessible. Three commonly used systems are text-to-speech, text to braille and computer-enhanced or enlarged text.
Layout and content
- Documents need to be designed in a clear and simple manner. if it is not possible to ask the customer what system they use and, therefore, create a file they can read, ensure the file can be saved as a text-only version.
- If information other than straight text is used (i.e. graphics), make sure that there is a text equivalent. tables could be converted to text or presented as a spreadsheet and sent as an excel file.
- If it is a lengthy, complex document, a system needs to be devised to make it easy for the user to search it. for example, plus signs can be used to indicate different levels of heading - each main heading could be preceded by 2 plus signs and minor headings by a single plus sign.
Labelling and sending
- Files should have sensible names and titles; filenames should mean something.
- Consider carefully how to word the subject line of an email.
- When creating and saving a document, let the computer choose the file extension. this helps the recipients know what kind of file has been sent.
- When sending disks through the post, try to include labelling in large print and, if possible, in braille.
Users can access and download a wide range of computer files, software packages and video and audio files from the internet. Service designers may want to use the internet as a distribution medium.
- Accessible HTML (hypertext mark-up language) is the most accessible electronic format. where possible, provide content in this format that conforms with web accessibility guidelines
- Website designers should follow the principles given above and refer to the NDA's website accessibility guidelines for further information.
How you could check for this
Test literature and application forms on a cross-section of the potential user population for this service.
During testing, the following key checks should be made:
- Information literature about the service should be available in a range of alternative formats;
- Information literature is in clear and simple language;
- Application forms are available in alternative formats;
- Application forms are easy to understand;
- Instructions are in at least 16 point type size;
- There is good contrast for text;
- Plain background is used for text;
- The typeface is legible;
- Lines are short;
- There is a mechanism for issuing pins to blind customers;
- Appropriate arrangements are in place for registering biometrics.