July 11, 2018

Large Print: It’s Not Just About Increasing the Font Size

Jen Goulden | Project & Quality Manager
large print example

Large print is the most widely requested traditional alternate format. The main reason for this is that blindness is a continuum. Many people who are considered “legally blind” have enough vision to read print if the font size is increased and if other changes are made to the color and layout of the document.

The most common misconception when it comes to this format is that if you simply increase the font size (generally by photocopying and enlarging the original) you have made your content accessible to an individual who reads large print. This is absolutely not the case, and the guidelines and best practices developed throughout the world attest to the inadequacy of such an approach.

The guidelines developed by the American Printing House (APH) clearly demonstrate that there is much more involved in producing a truly accessible large print document than simply blowing up the original. Individuals who read large print don’t just require a bigger font size. It’s also important to note that some fonts are easier to distinguish than others. The APH guidelines recommend using sans-serif fonts, which are made up of mostly straight lines. A serif is a short stroke that projects from the main strokes of a letter. Tahoma, Verdana and Helvetica are examples of sans-serif fonts.

Here are a few more industry best practices for large print files:

  • Increase the amount of white space: This makes a document more readable because the white space provides contrast to the print.
  • Remove all graphics that do not convey useful information to the reader: This makes the document less cluttered and easier to read, particularly when a white or cream background is used in contrast with black text.
  • Avoid all-caps or bold for large amounts of text: Excessive use of an emphasis typeface makes a document more difficult to read.

Fonts, layout and color contrast all play a significant role in the accessibility of large print material. We recognize that making these changes means that the large print version will not look like the original, but remember that if your clients could read the original they would not have requested an alternate format in the first place.

You can learn more about large print and other accessible formats such as braille, e-Pub, Accessible PDF, Accessible HTML from this recording of our recent webinar.