Cartoon image of a girl sitting at a desk reading a textbook.
Guide

What I have learned about print disabilities

My favorite resources for living with a print disability and how to make text easier to read.

As a component of having low vision, I was diagnosed with a print disability when I was in elementary school, though I didn’t know exactly what a print disability was until I was in high school or early college. As part of the requirements for one of my undergraduate assistive technology classes, I created a reference document that shared what I’ve learned about print disabilties and helpful things to know for students that have a print disability, and today will be sharing an updated version of that document, which has been adapted as a blog post.

What is a print disability?

A print disability is defined as the inability to read standard print due to a visual, perceptual, physical, cognitive, developmental, or learning disability. People with print disabilities use alternative access methods or assistive technology to read physical or digital printed materials, which can encompass a variety of different methods including Braille, large print, audio formats, adapted reading displays, or a combination of multiple formats.

Some examples of conditions frequently associated with print disabilities include:

What is standard print?

Standard print is defined as printed or digital text materials that do not have any additional modifications to make them easier to see. Standard print is typically around 10 to 12 point font (or 16x in browsers) and can be either a serif (e.g. Times New Roman) or sans serif (e.g. Arial). Some examples of standard print include a book off the shelf, a newspaper, or a website with default zoom settings enabled.

Related links

How a print disability is diagnosed

A print disability is not a separate disability classification, rather it refers to a person’s functional ability to interact with printed materials. Assessments for print disability are usually done in conjunction with other diagnostic tests or assessments. As a person with low vision, I was diagnosed with a print disability by a low vision ophthalmologist who worked with me to figure out the minimum font size that I could see, and introduced me to several assistive technology options that would work well for me. When I was in school, they also wrote a list of accommodations they would recommend for me in the classroom, such as 22 pt font on assignments- more on that later.

Related links

Assistive technology for print disabilities

A lot of the assistive technology I use in my day-to-day life is related to print disabilities, as I spend a lot of time reading. I have written extensively about assistive technology for print disabilities on my website, but some of my favorite options include:

Related links

Classroom accommodations for print disabilities

Assistive technology is an important component of managing print disabilities, though there are other accommodations that can support students in the classroom, whether that is in a K-12 or higher education classroom. Common classroom accommodations for print disabilties include:

Related links

The most helpful accommodation for me- use of color to convey information

While I have trouble with poor contrast colors, my color vision is generally considered intact and I find it helpful to use color as another way of conveying information. Some examples of how this has been implemented in the classroom include:

In many cases, I would confirm with my teachers about which answer choices were which, or read back an equation to ensure I was reading it correctly, and add these colors myself using colored pens or a digital stylus. Other times, my teachers would add the labels for me beforehand or would borrow my pens to ensure items were labeled properly.

Related links

Where to find accessible for print disabilities

Even though my print disability limits my access to printed materials, there are several options for finding accessible books for print disabilties, not only for academic reading but also for more “fun” books. Some of my favorite resources for finding free or low-cost accessible books for print disabilties include:

Related links

Other tips and resources for print disabilities

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated July 2023; original post published February 2017

Back to Paths to Technology’s Home page

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Frustrated girl lifting her glasses while trying to read text on a laptop.
Guide

Assistive technology for fluctuating eyesight

Kindergartener's hands on a braille display.
Guide

Writing and editing with an iPad and braille display: Intro part 1

Two overlapping chairs representing seeing a chair with double vision.
Guide

Ten “odd” things I do with double vision