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Reading with a visual impairment

For students who are blind or visually impaired, text poses a particular challenge. However, there are digital solutions and some simple steps that make text accessible.

Blind and visually impaired students can use screen reader software to read digital text aloud or translate it into braille. Instead of navigating with a mouse, they use keyboard shortcuts, similar to people with motor disabilities.

Some people with residual vision may also read on screens with very large text or with a magnification tool; people with tunnel vision may use very small text. Some will use colour inversion to adapt a document to their needs. In some cases, blind and visually impaired students may also rely on the services of an assistant.

Your text must therefore fulfil two requirements – regardless of whether students receive it as a document, website or email:

  • Your text’s structure and content must be understandable for screen readers and other computer programs.
  • The text must be visually organised in a way that is readable for people with visual impairments.

A layout that is well-structured and as simple as possible will fulfil both requirements – and is also advantageous for students without a disability, as it makes your text easier to read.

In general, editable document formats such as MS Word are easier for people with disabilities, as they can adapt them to their needs themselves. Please consider carefully whether it is really necessary to provide all files in PDF format. If it is a matter of copyright, students can sign a declaration that they will not share the content with others.

Accessibility rules apply equally to all text, regardless of the format in which it is published (text document, slide, website or email).

This chapter provides the basic guidelines. Step-by-step instructions for various software programs can be found in Chapters 4 to 7 of this guide.