The following recommendations are taken, in part, from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
The print standards outlined in this document are the recommended way to make documents accessible. For some designs this may not be possible, but before that conclusion is reached, all other methods should be explored in good faith.
If it is not possible to adhere to print accessibility standards, a link should be provided on the print document to the web information, if it exists.
Additional Methods for Accessibility
If the printed materials cannot be made accessible, an alternative is to provide the content in a text-only Word document. Images necessary for understanding the content will also need alt text descriptions.
Typeface and Font
To make print materials accessible, use a sans serif for body copy, but headings can be serif or sans serif:
- 12 pt. font, nothing smaller
- 14-16 pt. for "enlarged" print (not considered large print)
- 18 pt. and larger for large print
- 18 pt. and larger, with other formatting changes for enhanced print
- Don't use Roman numerals. It can be difficult to distinguish the upper case "I" and Roman numeral I, the numeral 1, and the lowercase L.
- The font should be wide-bodied with space between each letter. Letters that have a bubble inside them, such as o, d, g and others, should have plenty of space inside the bubble. Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri are good examples of accessible fonts.
- Punctuation should be rounded, large and very visible.
- Font strokes should be solid and without gaps in them.
- Avoid Italics when possible
- Generally speaking, bold is preferable to italics. Italics are more difficult to read than regular typefaces because individual letters lean into the territories of their neighbors.
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.
Recommended document set-up:
- Indent at least .5 inch at margins when feasible. Use one inch, when possible.
- Justify left margin, ragged right margin
- Set a minimum +10 tracking, as outlined in the Marketing Brand Standards
- Space 2-4 pt. larger than the font size between lines, especially on forms where underscores and boxes are used to provide space for writing
- Generally speaking, make sure there is ample space between paragraphs or other blocks of copy. A double space is sufficient when using programs such as Word, but different programs have different standards. Use as much as space as the design allows for.
- Use block paragraph style, no indents
Difficulties reading text can be minimized through the use of pastel, colored background for every alternate line. Do not use all the colors together in one table. Set color opacity or tint between 25-50%.
Shown are the approved additional regulation pastel colors.
Body Copy, Headings and Subheadings
Enumerate items by breaking down lists into groups of similar items. Use a tabulated list to allow the writer a method to display the points and to improve the sentence structure. Make sure the list falls at the end of the sentence, not at the beginning or in the middle.
When a paragraph or passage includes a list of more than three items, bullets are encouraged. They make lists more readable and more memorable.
Use a Ragged Right Margin
Many readability specialists have demonstrated that unjustified right margins are more readable than justified ones.
Use no more than 62 Characters per Line
Ideally, a line of type should accommodate 10-15 words in 12 point typeface, or 39 characters in a large print format, give or take a few characters.
Use plain Backgrounds for Text
The use of busy, graphic backgrounds for text renders the text very difficult to read. Plain backgrounds, preferably of off-white, cream, ivory, yellow or pink are best for reading black text.
Sometimes fills are needed in place of colors for charts, maps, and other graphics. For the most part, fills containing diagonal lines and evenly-set dots are usable.
PDFs on the Web
Although PDFs can be made accessible, do not upload PDFs to the web unless absolutely necessary. Print materials should be designed for print only and then formatted for the web as needed.
Not every print document will need to be formatted for use on the website, but any distributed print document that cannot be made print accessible should be. This includes:
- Fast Facts