Wednesday, December 5, 2012

APH Guidelines for Print Document Design

These are some great guidelines to remember for the classroom as well. I'm printing a few here and the rest can be found at the link provided above. For some of my babies with learning disabilities who are in resource or special classes I suggest using Comic Sans font as it's like the teacher's handwriting. ~K

J. Elaine Kitchel
Low Vision Project Leader
American Printing House for the Blind

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) believes guidelines for print documents should be brought to a standard of optimal usability for persons with low vision. The standards should be based on fundamental principles gleaned from research that originated from the study of the impact of print characteristics on readers of print products. This research also includes existing industry standards, where they apply.
With the advent of word processing, document design has become an intrinsic part of writing. Writers for APH encounter a wide array of new printing options. The knowledgeable use of these options helps the writer gain an advantage because readers of APH materials have become accustomed to very well-designed documents. For the writer of documents at APH, it has become an imperative to be knowledgeable about typography and design.
It is impossible to teach the writer everything he/she should know in a brief primer, but here are the essentials:

A. Use a Readable Typeface/Font

For text, a readable typeface means a sans-serif (/san-ser-if/) typeface (or font) made up of mainly straight lines. A serif is a short stroke that projects from the ends of the main strokes that make up a character. These are not desirable for use in a book to be read by persons of all ages and/or persons with visual impairments.
Although serif typefaces often work well in headings and personal stationery, they can be difficult to read in continuous text. Among the better san-serifed typefaces are APHont, Antique Olive, Tahoma, Verdana, and Helvetica.
The minimum size of any typeface to be used on APH documents is 12 points. Most large
print is 18 points.
  • 12 pt. = regular print
  • 14-16 pt. = "enlarged" print (not considered large print)
  • 18 and larger = large print
  • 18 and larger, with other formatting changes = enhanced print
  • Note: Students who need print 28 points or larger should probably be considered as candidates for Braille education.
Here are the primary things to think about when selecting a font for use by persons with low vision:
  1. The upper case "I" and Roman Numeral I, the numeral 1, and the lower case l, should all look different from one another.
  2. The font should be wide-bodied with space between each letter. Letters which have a bubble inside them, such as o, d, g, and others should have plenty of space inside the bubble.
  3. Punctuation should be rounded, large and very visible.
  4. For these reasons APHont was developed and is suggested as a font that meets all necessary guidelines.
  5. Font strokes should be solid and without gaps in them.

B. Use White Space

Ample white space makes a page more readable and useful because it provides contrast to the print and creates luminance around the text. The primary ways to create white space on the page are to use generous margins, e.g., margins of at least one inch for letters and other business documents. Another way to provide white space is to provide ample spacing, leading and kerning to text.
APH encourages its writers to:
  • Indent 1 inch at margins
  • Justify left margin, unjustify right margin
  • Use a wide, san-serif font for ample kerning
  • Space 1.25 between lines, especially on forms where underscores and boxes are used to provide space for writing
  • Double space (30-34 pt) between paragraphs or other bodies of text
  • Use block paragraph style, no indents
Other ways include white space are, supply headings and sub-headings, enumerate items in separate paragraphs, subparagraphs, or bulleted lists.
White space is especially important on forms. Lots of horizontal lines, or grids with horizontal and vertical lines can be very difficult for some people with visual impairments to follow across the page. These difficulties can be minimized through the use of pastel, colored background for every alternate line. Example below:
State Year Auto Sales Home Sales Boat Sales
Alabama 2010 309,436 99,307 27,397
Delaware 2010 214,556 78,477 39,765
Virginia 2010 349, 887 125,095 33,482
Washington 2009 272,299 69,433 30,442
Crowded text detracts from readability and usability because contrast is limited by too much black text. In studies, persons with normal vision who filled-out crowded forms often lost focus before they reached the end of the task. Persons with vision impairments struggled more than their typically-sighted peers with forms and text.

See more guidelines at


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