Vision changes as we age make it harder to read print and electronic communications.
Our eyes change as we grow older starting around age 50. For example, our ability to see color decreases as we age, particularly blues and pale colors. Although getting older doesn’t result in poor eyesight for everyone, declining vision is common.
These changes make it harder for mature eyes to read print and electronic communications without some accommodations. If people will have difficultly reading what your write, why bother?
Communicating electronically or in print with older readers requires accommodations for this reality. Here’s some tips for making information easier to read for persons living with vision challenges.
1) Use san serif fonts. That’s French for text fonts that are “without serifs.” Serifs are those frills at the end of letters. Times New Roman is an example. Those flourishes at the ends of the letters have the effect of making the letters run together making it harder to distinguish individual letters.
San serif font examples: Ariel, Calibre, Tahoma, Verdana, Segoe UI.
2) Use a larger font size. The recommended minimum font size is 12 point for text in letters and print material. For Power Point presentations, use a minimum of 22 point fonts.
Use 14 point for persons who have mild vision issues.
Use 18 point or larger for persons with low vision.
3) Use dark colors for text (black, navy blue, etc.) on a light background, and especially avoid using blues, purples, and pale colors for your text. Pale blues are the worst, despite their popularity among some email users.
4) Backgrounds behind text should be light colored and uncluttered. It is much harder to read text that is overlaid on a photo or other busy background. Also, light colored text on black or other dark backgrounds is extremely hard to read for many persons with low vision.
5) Don’t use italics or underlining because they make letters run together (similar to the problem with serifs). Italics make it harder to distinguish between individual letters. Underlining also makes it harder to distinguish between individual letters and words. Italics with underling is worse yet.
Because hyperlinks typically are light blue and underlined, using bold is a way to compensate.
6) Don’t use text effects, such as shadows, outlining, and 3-D. They make the text more blurry for older and tired eyes to read.
7) Increase white spaces between text by using short paragraphs, headings and subheadings, bullets, and left justified text. Don’t clutter a document, PowerPoint slide or webpage with a lot of clip art, animations, graphics, and photos. Keep it simple.
8) Use captions for photos, clip art, and graphics, especially if they are busy or small sized.
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