With the exception of maybe three classes, all of my professors have relied on using the whiteboard or projector when teaching in the classroom. As a student with low vision, I can sometimes have difficulty reading what is on the board and am frequently asking questions about what something says. Luckily, my professors are always willing to help me, and have even helped me figure out things that they can do to help improve the readability of the board for all students, not just me. So today I will be sharing how to make things on the board easier to see for all students.
Using a whiteboard/dry erase board
Write with vibrant colored markers
Whenever my professors write material on the board with faded markers, or with light colored markers in colors like green or orange, I find the board difficult to read or make a lot of errors when copying notes because the colors provide poor contrast. I ask my professors to write on the board using black, red, or blue markers that are easy to see and that provide high contrast against the white or off-white background of the dry erase board. Students with perfect vision find it much easier to read information as well, especially during night classes or when they are sitting in the back row. Read more about choosing the perfect seat for class here.
Avoid writing in script
One of my friends with a learning disability was talking to me about how they could never figure out what the teacher was writing when they used script or cursive writing on the board. Another one of my friends agreed, saying that it was difficult to tell what someone was writing when all of the letters ran into each other. Plus, students with both diagnosed and undiagnosed vision issues alike could get very frustrated reading the board. I have requested for my professors to use print handwriting whenever possible when writing on the board, and my friends have requested that material on the board be rewritten if they find it is too hard to read.
Describe diagrams as they are drawn
A while ago, my professor was drawing a complex diagram on the board and figured that everyone in the class could see the difference between the similar looking shapes on the board. When it came time for us to practice, they were very surprised to see that a lot of us had drawn the diagram incorrectly, and almost everyone who had drawn it incorrectly wore glasses or contacts. It helps me a lot when my professors describe what they are drawing so that I can follow along, and I appreciate when they distinguish between shapes by using different colored markers or shading in patterns. Another great way to show diagrams is by using tactile materials- read more about creating tactile materials here.
Let people take pictures of the screen
I use the whiteboard camera function in Microsoft Office OneNote very frequently to create an OCR file that I can add to my notes easily. I know someone else who will take pictures of the board so that they can write out the notes later. There are other students who take pictures of the board so that they can study for the test better. Before erasing the board, give students the opportunity to take a picture of the board so they can use the information at a later time. Read more about how I use Microsoft Office OneNote in the classroom here.
Using a document camera
Write with pens instead of pencil
Gray pencil lead on white paper (or any other paper color) can be very difficult to read, as the text can look faded. And if something has to be erased, then the paper can become more difficult to read due to the shadow of what was erased. I have requested that pen be used when someone is writing on the document camera for better contrast, and many other students have done the same in my classes. I highly recommend using Sharpie ultra fine tip pens, which are my writing utensil of choice that I bring to class with me. Read more about what’s in my college backpack here.
Zoom in on sections
When writing on a document camera, it can be tempting to display the entire page at once, but many students prefer that a document be zoomed in on to a specific section so that they can focus easier. This is especially helpful for students with print disabilities who can be overwhelmed or confused by a large amount of text. My professors have students raise their hands or use some other signal to show when they are done copying down information so that they can move on to another section.
Consider using a colored background
Did you know that colored backgrounds can improve the readability of text? It’s true, studies show that it’s easier to read text on a colored background because there is less glare. One of my professors uses yellow and blue paper when writing on the document camera, and it is so much easier to read, especially when they use dark colored pens to write. Read more about colored backgrounds and the readability of text here.
Scan in a copy of the notes
My math professors will scan in copies of notes that combine typed text and handwritten text so that students can easily reference material. However, some professors don’t like to have class notes available to everyone. If this is the case, I will request to see the copy of the class notes from the day and scan it in using Microsoft Office Lens so that they don’t have to scan it in and send it to me. Read more about using Microsoft Office Lens here.
Using a computer projector
Use the magnifying tool for small text
A software that is commonly used in my programming class has large text that can be enabled for everything but the dialog box, and so far my professor and I have not come up with a fix for this. In the meantime, my professor has been using the built in Windows Magnifier tool to increase the size of the dialog box and other small items on the screen, and this has definitely been appreciated. Just make sure not to move the cursor too fast, as some students may get motion sickness.
Increase the display size of the computer
By using Windows 10 accessibility settings, a user can make an entire display larger, or adjust specific elements. Increasing the size of the cursor/mouse pointer as well as increasing the size of text can help make reading and following along easier on everyone’s eyes. Learn how to enable these settings in my Windows 10 accessibility settings post here.
Enable a blue light filter
Have you ever stared at a screen so long that you thought your eyes were going to fall out of your head? This can be due to the blue light emitted by computers and other displays, which can contribute to eye fatigue and minor eye pain. Try enabling a blue light filter for the computer display, or check to see if your projector has a blue light filter option. Read more about choosing a blue light filter and how to avoid eye strain from technology here.
Create accessible documents
When creating documents in softwares such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint, it’s important to make them accessible for users with disabilities. Adding items such as alt text and image descriptions, and avoiding certain animations and colors, can make all the difference when reading and accessing materials. Learn more about creating accessible Microsoft Word documents here, and creating accessible Microsoft PowerPoint presentations here. Oh, and if you are looking for an awesome PowerPoint alternative that can be used on any device and with screen readers, I highly recommend Microsoft Office Sway- read more about using Microsoft Office Sway here.
I hope that simple these tips are helpful for making things on the board easier to read and see for all students. I highly recommend trying them out to see what a difference they can make!