Improving access for blind / visually impaired people

Essential information such as flyers, brochures, calendars of events, programmes, catalogues and booking information should be accessible to everyone. You can use Braille, computer disk, email plain text files, mp3s, audio tape and CDs to communicate information you would usually provide in print, depending on circumstances and demand.

Braille is a system of raised dots which can be read by touch. Grade 1 Braille is a letter by letter transcription, while Grade 2 Braille is a shorthand version for more experienced readers and is the standard for Braille transcription. Braille documents are very large and an average A4 printed page transcribes as three to four pages of Grade 2 Braille.

Audio tapes and CDs or mp3 files of standard written material can be produced cheaply and quickly by a range of transcription services north and south of the island.

Computer disks and plain text email attachments are a very useful way of communicating information to visually impaired computer users but are obviously of limited value for items for immediate information, such as theatre programmes. It is important for organisations with websites to familiarize themselves with standards for making websites accessible to people with a visual impairment.

Standard and large print: The following points act as a good guideline for producing large print documents.

  • For main text use upper and lower case letters, as words will retain their shape making them easier to read.
  • Key words and headings should be highlighted in bold type. Avoid italics and underlining as they can be difficult to read.
  • Only use UPPER CASE to emphasize isolated letters or short phrases and headings.
  • Fat letters are more easily seen than thin letters. Use letters in plain type (Sans Serif). Arial is a good choice of lettering type.
  • Colour and contrast of the lettering and the background must be considered. Black on white or white on black are good contrasting colours. Sometimes, however, black and white can give too much reflection and so more muted colours can improve visibility e.g. navy background with cream text, black background and yellow text or cream background with navy / black text.
  • The paper surface should have a matt finish to reduce reflection and glare. This is especially important when a person with vision impairment uses illumination and magnification to read.
  • The type size requirement varies with individuals, “jumbo” large print is not suitable for all. The print should be as small as is comfortable for the individual, so the eye can cover more letters in one sweep. Size 14 point is a good size for publications and company letters. Where large print is requested, size 22 is recommended.
  • If using very large font for heading for example, a negative text is better – dark background and light colour text (e.g. the banner on left of this page)
  • Use colours and bullets to highlight important points in text.
  • Make sure page numbers are clear.
  • Columns of text should be clearly separated from each other.
  • The left margin of text should not have a jagged edge. Each line of text should start in the same place making the beginning of the next line easier to find, this is particularly helpful for those using magnification.
  • Avoid setting text over images. Clear, simple, plain text and images, with good colour contrast are easier to see
  • For larger documents, ensure that the document can be flattened so that the pages can easily be placed on a scanner or screen magnifier.
  • Unjustified text is easier to read
  • A consistent layout will help the reader to access the information that they need. The layout should be the same for each section, for example, telephone number first, fax second and email third. Place index, contact names, addresses and useful telephone numbers in bold type, on the first or last page of publications.

Audio description

Several theatres on the island of Ireland now offer audio described performances. In the North these are provided by Sightlines and in the south by Arts and Disability Ireland.

Audio description provides users with a simultaneous commentary of the visual elements of theatre, dance, film, TV and video.  In the theatre, the audio described commenarty is transmitted live via headsets.

Touch Tours

Touch tours are also offered by some museums and galleries. Visitors are offered audio tours and the chance to touch either exhibits or 3d models of exhibits.

Some theatres offer touch tours of sets.

There is different legislation in the North and the south in relation to employing, providing services to and providing accessible information for disabled people. You will find more information on the following sites.


View the list of releveant organisations in the Directory