By Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT

Perhaps the most comfortable way to transition to reading with vision loss, at least in the beginning, is also the simplest: bigger print. Most major publishing houses today produce bestsellers and other materials in large print formats, which are available at retail book stores. Large print collections are also available at most public libraries.

Font Size

The standard font size for large print is 18 point, although you might need larger (or smaller) print, depending on your needs and type of vision loss. When advising your employer, senior center, or church, for example, on how to make brochures, newsletters, schedules, menus, programs, and other materials accessible for you, the best size type for these items is generally 18 point, which can be produced by regular printers.

It’s also best to use bold black print on a matte (not glossy or shiny) white or cream background and limit the use of graphics. Also, avoid using italics or all capital letters. Generally, lower-case lettering is easier to read.

Font Styles

Use plain, simple, “sans-serif” fonts, such as Arial or APHont (available online through the American Printing House for the Blind).

Serifs are details on the ends of some strokes that comprise letters and symbols. A typeface with these strokes and details is called “serif.” A typeface without these details is called “sans-serif,” from the French “sans,” meaning “without.” In many cases, the use of fonts with serifs can reduce the readability of print for people with low vision. Therefore, sans-serif fonts are the recommended print options.

This is an illustration and comparison of serif and sans-serif fonts:

Comparison of sans-serif fonts

For more information about making print more readable, see VisionAware’s Getting Started Kit: Tips for Making Print More Readable (PDF).

Use Strong Contrast

Strong contrast between the print and background is very important. Light lettering, such as white or light yellow, on a dark background may sometimes be easier to read than black lettering on a white or light-colored background. To enhance print contrast, you can also use a yellow acetate overlay, or filter to enhance the contrast between the print and page color.

Use a Reading Stand

Using a reading stand is a simple, effective solution that can help you to read material at the best angle and distance. A reading stand can also help you to keep your reading material in proper focus, which is sometimes hard to do if your hands shake or if you tire easily. A reading stand or clipboard can also help to stabilize the reading material and free up your hands.

Have a Low Vision Examination

If you have some remaining vision, it can be helpful to make an appointment with a low vision specialist, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist with additional training in this area, and discuss the ways that low vision optical devices and non-optical devices, such as magnifiers, small telescopes, improved lighting, or electronic video magnifiers, can supplement your reading needs.

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