As a student with fluctuating low vision, one of the most valuable skills I have developed is how I document accessibility preferences with low vision. My low vision is not static, and can change multiple times throughout the day. Alternatively, I might need to have larger text settings for one particular software than I do for other applications, so being able to have a specific list of accessibility preferences for each tool I work with is extremely helpful for ensuring I have what I need to succeed. Here is how I document accessibility preferences with low vision, and how I use these documents for myself and others.
I organize all of my accessibility preferences based on the name of the software or application I am using. I collect these documents on my computer and store them in a folder so I can easily send a document to my professors or other students about my preferred accessibility settings. Some students may prefer a more organized approach such as a OneNote notebook or Sway document, but I prefer the single paged documents instead.
When I was telling one of my friends about how I was writing this post, they asked me why I would need to document my accessibility preferences if I frequently use the same computer. Some of the reasons I do this include:
On my high school IEP, my preferred font size and style was 24-point Arial font. While this is still one of my favorite fonts and font sizes, I’ve found that there are some instances where I need larger or smaller font. In addition, I might use a different font style for writing code than I do for writing an essay. So I make sure to note my favorite font size and style for each subject or software
In classes such as math and science, every single letter or symbol is relevant, and there are often subscripts and superscripts included. When I am reading instructions for assignments, I increase the font size to 36 and ensure that all subscripts and superscripts are also enlarged to a readable font size. My professors are happy to accommodate this in college and will make sure that documents can be adjusted to my preferred font size
As a data science major, I work with lots of different types of software, almost all of which supports custom font sizes and types. I’ve found that when I am reading things from a screen, I prefer to use an 18 point font size so that I can view everything on the page without scaling issues, and I can also use screen magnification to enlarge things if needed.
I love reading on colored or tinted backgrounds to reduce glare and eye strain. When I work with software for my data science classes, I like to use the high contrast themes in Windows 10 whenever I can, as this helps me with being able to read code. However, some applications look strange with a dark mode, so instead I use a lighter color scheme and add a blue light filter or heavier screen tint instead. In my accessibility preferences, I note which color scheme I prefer, or if I need to make any adjustments in my computer’s settings for optimal readability.
Sometimes, instead of just enlarging the text of the screen, I will use a different scaling setting so that I can make buttons or menus bigger. However, most of the time I prefer to use external magnification software such as Magnifier and make a note as to what percentage works best for magnifying different sections of the screen. For example, if I am using a remote desktop software, I would document that I use screen magnification in the window view at 225%.
While I prefer to use magnification whenever possible, there are moments when I find that I need to use a screen reader. One of the things I have noted in my accessibility document is when/if I will need to use a screen reader to access information. For example, when I have to read certain dialog boxes, I prefer to have my screen reader read me things so that I can figure out what is going on.
Another thing I like to note is the speed of my screen reader. I typically have a quicker voice speed for when I am reading long documents than I do for when I am reviewing code I wrote for class. While some advanced screen reader users can use the same speed for everything, I am still learning my own preferences and prefer the slower voice speeds for proofreading.
Sometimes, there are environmental issues that can change my accessibility preferences, which is why I include additional notes on settings I may not always need, but that are helpful to have. Being in a too-bright room, having lots of eye fatigue, or similar factors outside of my control can change how I interact with technology, so I make sure to note these changes. Most of these changes are as simple as increased screen magnification or different color schemes.
I love using multiple monitors/screens to do some of my assignments, while other times I prefer to use one screen only so that I can focus on everything. Other times, I have to use an app on my Android phone or iPad in conjunction with another software, such as when I am using a calculator for my math class. If I need to have additional devices or applications to be successful, this gets documented.
Here is a sample document of my accessibility preferences for using a popular application in my data science class called SQLiteStudio:
Having the ability to document my accessibility preferences for the software I use in my everyday classes has been extremely helpful, as this means I am able to configure any copy of the application to be exactly how I like it. I encourage all students to document their accessibility preferences so that they can give feedback on accessible materials and learn more about assistive technology.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com