When people think of accessibility for people with disabilities they typically think about physical accessibility for wheelchair users, clear access pathways for low vision or blindness, interpreters for people who are Deaf, along with other clearly defined visible accommodations. While these are necessary and make a world of difference to those they effect, there is a whole other realm of access that many businesses tend to forget. We live in a digital world with many new and exciting forms of technology, and with that comes an independence that once seemed impossible. While these incredible new advancements take center stage, we must not forget the simple things that help people in their day to day lives.
Communication is vital for individuals with disabilities to understand the world around them, and one of the most effective ways to communicate is through written word. However, this is not effective if those words are not seen or understood. As our nation’s senior population grows by the day, the number of people that struggle with low vision increase as well. This is not however the only population that lives with these barriers. This fact makes it imperative to think about making information accessible to those that absorb information differently.
While most businesses typically create flyers, brochures, and other information in 11 point font, this is simply too small for most people with low vision to read. At a minimum, 14 point font is necessary to begin to be legible, while others require up to 24 point font. Does this mean that everything needs to be this large? No. But simply having access to a larger font option can mean the difference between a well informed consumer and one that is left behind.
High contrast is another much needed feature for people with low vision. While some people see better with different color backgrounds than others, the goal here is not to make 20 different options but rather to make sure that whatever color you choose, the font is highly contrasted against the background. Things to keep in mind though; while people with low vision do not prefer documents with a lot of photos, the Deaf community prefers photos that best illustrate the point while containing fewer words. The point being, it is always important to figure out your audience when preparing materials and also think through the physical placement of these materials once created. For example, many doctors offices tend to mount informative brochure racks high on the wall, behind chairs, tables, and other obstacles. Those who use wheelchairs will not have access to these materials. These items will be better accessed on a wall with a clear path directly in front.
At The Independence Center, we try hard everyday to think about these simple things that can bring about more and more independence for each individual we cross paths with. Sometimes it is difficult to think through how others experience the world, and how your actions can have an effect on others. But the truth is, it is often not as difficult as it seems. With time, simple changes become second nature and they end up making a substantial difference to people with disabilities and others within the community.