Large print and hardcopy considerations

Large print is essential for students, educators, and staff who have visual or learning difficulties and have trouble reading fine print or deciphering crowded text at one time. Large print usually ranges from 16 to 22 point, while giant print uses fonts that are bigger than 24 point. Having one single size will not meet everyone’s needs; therefore, it is important to find out which is a comfortable reading size for each individual student. Research has demonstrated the positive impacts of providing enlarged font size for people with mild to moderate visual impairments, resulting in an increased reading fluency and speed (Rubin et al., 2006).

With devices such as e-readers, tablets and computers individuals can self select the size of type that suits them best in any given situation and environment.

Hardcopy large print is created using word processing software and a printer. When creating a large print document it is good practice to find out what size of font people prefer—create sample pages of different sizes for people to choose from. NOTE: It is also important not to use a photocopier’s zoom feature to create large print documents. Photocopying can result in poor print quality and can cut off text making the document harder to read.

Other Considerations

In addition to providing large print for text only, it is important to consider how to provide accessible large print for various types of graphs, pictures, charts that are used indifferent educational subjects. Other considerations include characteristics of print that may influence one’s ability to read effectively, including font style or typeface, clarity, spacing, alignment, and contrast. It is also important to understand that not all individuals who have a visual difficulty require large print. Those that have good visual acuity (ability to see detail) but smaller fields of vision may require regular sized or smaller print.

A useful resource is CNIB’s Clear Print Guidelines in using a more readable, universal typeface in print material, and incorporating some other simple design modifications. Additionally, the Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design is free to all who are interested in designing more accessible and inclusive communications. The handbook addresses web design, environmental design and print and offers suggestions on how to do better design—what factors to consider, what questions to ask, and where to find more information.

Images or pictures

Images can add information to a document and can be beneficial in education; however, use of images need to be carefully considered as it may exclude students with low vision from accessing the same information as their peers.

  • Does the image convey important information? If it’s purely decorative, it could be removed completely. Also, some image can be removed if the information they present can be more effectively described in words.
  • Are descriptions of images presented consistently? When using captions, ensure the layout is consistent; for example, directly below each image. This way, students will know where to find them. When describing the appearance of an image, begin with an overview of the layout in a logical sequence, such as left to right, top to bottom, etc. Then build in detail, such as description of the story the image is telling. The descriptions should be instructional, and does not include personal interpretations of an image.
  • Are the images presented clear? Large print images should be included if the information is more effective in an image format. Examples in the classroom could include teaching graphical concepts, flow charts, or using images to evoke discussions.  Illustrations provided should be line drawings with thick, dark strokes or outlines.

Charts or Graphs

Charts, graphs, flow charts, Venn diagrams are common graphics and images used in the school curriculum; however, many students with print disabilities have difficulty interpreting these complex graphics. The information below refers to the guideline created by The WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) in visual information commonly presented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The STEM images guideline is a useful resource for educators on methods in accessing data published in a visual format, from graphs and tables to diagrams and math equations. If interested in more detailed information, read the full STEM images guideline on the NCAM site.

  • Line Graphs – Provide a brief description of what the line graph represents, as well as the axis labels. Do not provide descriptions of colours and lines if present unless required for assessment. Provide an accessible table as an additional format.
  • Charts – Establish if the information within the chart reveals any patterns that will be apparent to a student without a visual impairment. For example, data within a chart may show a comparison of precipitation level for two different regions, but the pattern of precipitation may not be apparent if it were described as a list of numbers for the regions.
  • Pie charts – should be converted into large print tables with percentages listed from smallest to largest. Colours of the lines and wedges may be unnecessary information to describe, unless it relates to questions on an exam.
  • Venn Diagrams – focus on the information data in the diagram and not its appearance.
  • Scatterplots – These are among the harder graphs to describe. Identify the image as a scatterplot and describe the change of concentration. Convert plotted data into large print table format to reduce visual clutter for students.
  • Flowcharts – Flowcharts can be complex and difficult to describe. Provide general overview of what the flowchart looks like and lists the possible next steps beneath each box label.


The contrast between the text and the background on which it is printed is extremely important. Occasionally, student worksheets or handouts are printed on coloured paper for colour coding topics and differentiating between handouts being distributed. This may create barriers for students who find the colours distracting or have difficulty reading text off the paper due to the low contrast. In addition, students with decreased colour perception will not benefit from this strategy.

Contrast is affected by several other factors, including printing inks, the opacity of the paper and the size and weight of the font type.

Other recommendations for contrast include:

  • Aim for a clear contrast between the text or image on the page and the background colour
  • Do not print text over photographs or illustrations or over a wash, effect or tint that reduces contrast and clarity
  • Use white/off-white/cream paper—it has the best contrast with black ink
  • Watermarks and complicated background designs should be avoided

Font Style or Typeface

Font style or typeface can make a huge difference in optimizing the students’ ability to read. There are two broad categories of typeface/fonts: serif typefaces, which have little “feet” (serifs) at the ends of the letters and sans serif, which do not. When printing material for your students, select a clear, easy-to-read typeface that will distinguish between characters and numbers—a sans-serif typeface is considered preferable (e.g., Arial or Verdana). Avoid complicated or decorative fonts (e.g. Serif Typeface: Times New Roman).

Type weight or Font Heaviness

Typefaces are usually available in light, normal (roman), semi-bold (medium) or bold weights. Considering each student’s needs, text should be printed to address their visual preferences.

Type style

Most people read by remembering shapes of words. The eye recognizes these shapes rather than individual letters. Blocks of text set in italics or capitals is harder for people with visual impairments to read since it is difficult to recognize word shapes if the letters are all the same height or set at an angle. Therefore, constant use of capital letters or italics should be avoided, and blocks of text should not be underlined to avoid creating any unnecessary visual complexity.

Spacing and Alignment

Spacing and alignment of words on the page can also impact readability for individuals with certain print disabilities. The following are recommended:

  • Word and letter spacing should be even (e.g. avoid justifying)
  • Spacing between characters should be sufficient to ensure legibility
  • Linked paragraphs should not be widely spaced
  • Initials or words should not be divided or split across a line break
  • Text is aligned to the left margin

Paper Finish

Considerations when choosing print paper:

  • The paper should be thick enough so text from one side of a page will not show through to the other. This makes it easier for students to visually process information, and for high technology visual aids to project it clearly on screen. Single-sided printing may help to avoid this if you are in doubt about the thickness of the paper.
  • The paper should be matte and uncoated to prevent any glare or reflection


Gould, B., O’Connell, T., and Freed, G. (2008). Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books. Boston, MA: The WGBH National Center for Accessible Media. Retrieved from

Rubin, G., Feely, M, Perera, S., Ekstrom, K., & Williamson, E. (2006).The effect of font and line width on reading speed in people with mild to moderate vision loss.
Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 26(6), 545-554.

How It Relates to the AODA legislation:

graphic with the words: Helping you meet Ontario's AODA

Large Print relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Standards, specifically some of the following sections in the Information and Communication Standards:

Additional resources can be found on AccessForward’s website under Training Modules and Additional Training Resources.

AODA Significance:

  1. Large print provides individuals with enlarged text content and makes the information and educational resources accessible to people with print disabilities.
  2. People interact, learn, and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
  3. The AODA legislates that educational institutions and their employees know how to produce accessible or conversion ready versions of textbooks and printed material. Educators, teachers, and staff are to learn about accessible program or course delivery and instruction and be knowledgeable at interacting and communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternate formats.

Additional Resources:

To learn how this section relates to the core principles of the AODA Customer Service regulation, visit the AODA page on SNOW.

To learn of ways to innovate, develop, and design for accessibility, visit OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) website and the IDRC’s floe project website.