Accessible materials

Hampshire Learning centres provide a range of information in printed formats.

These guidelines provide tips for centre managers and their staff, to ensure that this information is easily accessible for everyone, including people with:

  • visual impairments
  • learning difficulties
  • memory or concentration difficulties
  • specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia
  • literacy or language difficulties

Paper and font colours

Aim for a good contrast between print and paper, such as black type on white or cream paper. If you use coloured paper make sure the background colour is pale, such as pastel blue or pale green. If the print colour is not black, make sure that it is as dark as possible, for example dark brown or navy blue. Red, yellow or orange often don't provide enough contrast to be seen easily.

Avoid all pale shades on coloured background, for example avoid grey print on pale blue paper.

White font on black or another dark coloured paper can work well, provided font size is relatively large.

Avoid glossy paper as this reflects light and reduces readability.

Font style and size

There are hundreds of font styles to choose from, but they generally fall into one of two groups. ‘Serif’ fonts have small cross strokes at the end of strokes, such as Times New Roman and Garamond. ‘Sans serif’ fonts don't have these strokes, such as Arial or Verdana. People generally find sans serif fonts easier to read.

Another factor to consider is the letters that rise above and below the text. These are known as ascenders and descenders. Fonts with a clear distinction between ordinary height letters (such as a, c, e) and those with ascenders and descenders (such as p, b, d) is helpful. This is because we use the letters that rise above and below the text as sub-conscious navigation guides.

Type size is often the biggest influence on legibility. Generally, text should be produced as a minimum equivalent Arial font size 12. Most materials are easier to read if a larger font size is chosen.

Use of italics, underlining and bold

Avoid italics and underlining as this makes text harder to read. They cut through descenders and interfere with the shape of the word. Using italics reduces readability by 30%.

The use of bold type can be used as emphasis. Don’t overuse this feature as this can be counterproductive.

Text alignment

Avoid justified or centred text. Justified text is harder to read because the spacing between words is varied to give the flush left and right margins. Centred text is the most difficult of all layouts to read and most people give up after only a few lines. It takes time to pick up the start of a new line from the end of the one above.

Capital letters

Avoid capital letters. These are harder to read than lower case letters. A word or two in capitals as a heading shouldn’t present serious difficulties but capitals should be avoided for continuous text as they are confusing to read. This is because there are no ascenders or descenders. They also give the impression that you are shouting at the reader.

Layout

Aim for an uncluttered layout without too much information. Avoid narrow line spacing, narrow margins, or dense text.

Use bullet point summaries rather than dense text or lengthy paragraphs. Break up large amounts of information into smaller blocks by using subheadings. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Layout should be clear, simple, and logical.

Avoid text over a patterned background, or superimposed over images, or around illustrations. It is much harder to read and can be confusing.

Leave larger spaces between sections than between paragraphs. Lots of white space encourages reading and accessibility.

Images

Use visual images to attract attention, give interest and illustrate information.

Materials available in alternative formats

Ensure materials are available in alternative formats; large print, electronic format for example. Make sure you say this on the front or at the back of any document.