Sunday, January 15, 2006

visual limitations

Frequently, valuable information, instructions, and warnings can not be read and understood by those with impaired eyesight because of poor selection of print size or visual contrasts. The most visible printing combination is black ink letters on white paper. Any print lighter than black or paper darker than white decreases the contrast. As people age, the need for contrast increases because of the discoloration of the lens of the eye. Contrast is not the only problem. The size of the print is very important. Help wanted ads generally appear in 6-point type, hampering job hunting efforts by the elderly. Newspapers are often printed in 8- or 9-point type. Most pamphlets and brochures on community services use typewriter type of 10-point size. The minimum recommended size type for the general population is 11 points. Twelve point size type is suggested for the elderly, while 14 point is the minimum approved for the severely visually handicapped. The use of these recommended type sizes are often ignored by government agencies, businesses, and manufacturers. The size print for medication warnings is smaller than the print in telephone directories. Room air fresheners packed in aerosol cans display warning that puncturing or exposure to high heat can cause explosions-but the print is below 11-point size and is often a chrome reflective paint on white background, offering no visual contrast. The use of colored ink on colored paper makes it almost impossible for most elderly to read.
Better Communications, Inc., a nonprofit organization, has been formed to research and promote better visual communications for the visually impaired, blind, deaf, and those with poor reading skills.
Ralph, J. "Visual Booby Traps for Aging Population," in Aging, Goldstein, E. C., ed. Vol. 2, Art. 58. Boca Raton, Fl.: Social Issues Resource Series, Inc., 1981.

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