u3a - Diversity and Inclusion - Readability

Advice for u3a members who produce material for others to read

Nobody has to read the material you write, so you need to make it easy for your readers! Many people’s sight declines in later life, while others will have sight loss when they join u3a. When reading hardcopy, many such people will appreciate larger and clearer text. Following the guidance below will reduce, although never eliminate, the need to provide larger print or audio versions.

When using a phone, tablet or computer, people with poor sight may also use software to enlarge the display or access it through synthetic speech (screen reader software). However, it is still important to design your content as inclusively as possible.

Tips

When writing text for hard copy, videos or online access:

  • Use at least 14 point, with a simple (sans serif) font, and make it fairly bold.
  • Avoid italics or simulated handwriting.
  • Use good colour contrast between foreground and background, e.g. do not use pale text on pale backgrounds or white text on pale backgrounds or pale text on white backgrounds.
  • Maintain good spacing between lines.
  • Justify text on the left but not on the right.
  • Do not write text over graphics.
  • Do not use blocks of capital letters.
  • Do not create larger print by photocopying it onto larger paper.

In addition, when preparing material for online access:

  • Divide your text up into short chunks, and use headings of different levels to separate each section.
  • Put “alternative text” behind graphics, so that a verbal description is available to people using screen readers.
  • Make sure each link is worded so that it makes sense out of context, e.g. “events”, “groups”, “meetings” and not “read more” or “click here”.
  • Avoid the use of more than one column on the screen.
  • Design forms so that they can be completed online, without the need to print off.
  • Clearly label all your form fields if expecting people to interact online.

For more information and guidance:

UKAAF, the UK Association for Accessible Formats, is a major source of information and guidance. www.ukaaf.org 

Web content accessibility guidelines: www.w3.org › WAI › standards-guidelines › wcag

Resource/reference point for digital publishing: https://inclusivepublishing.org/publisher/

 

Advice for members experiencing difficulty reading standard print or screens

Many u3a members will be finding it increasingly difficult to read “standard size” writing on paper or screen.  There are a number of solutions that may help:

  • A range of magnifiers is available for hard copy, and local NHS Low Vision Clinics may be able to assess you and provide you with otherwise expensive magnifiers on permanent loan.
  • For reading a phone, tablet or computer display, there are a number of options. IOS (Apple) and Android have built-in accessibility features which either magnify the display or provide speech output. For computers, Microsoft has some inbuilt accessibility features, and a range of software is available to buy, and also some good open source software, which will magnify and/or produce synthetic speech.
  • The producers of u3a materials such as newsletters can be referred to the readability advice issued by u3a on the national website (under Support for u3as/Diversity and Inclusion). You should also feel free to ask the producer of the material to provide a larger print version or an audio version.
  • The u3a’s national magazine, Third Age Matters, can be accessed online for screen readers. From the u3a Home Page, click on Publications, then on “Third Age Matters for Screen Readers.” You then have the option of viewing or downloading the latest issue, and then if you wish accessing it through magnification or synthetic speech output.  We are hoping that this version can be enhanced to make searching and navigation easier. 
  • You can seek advice from a national voluntary agency such as RNIB. There will also almost certainly be a local voluntary society for blind and partially sighted people in your area, and they often have resource centres where you can obtain advice or try out equipment. These organisations deal with a wide range of sight loss, and should be happy to help you even when your sight is still relatively good.
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB): rnib.org.uk, National Helpline 0303 123 9999
  • Visionary, for information on your nearest local voluntary society: visionary.org.uk, Helpline: 020 8090 9264