Getting yearbooks at the end of the school year is always an exciting experience, as it is a great time to look back on the year and reflect on all of the friendships and memories made. Students with vision impairments, including low vision and blindness, can be included in this exciting time, with the help of these tips.
There are many schools that will accommodate student requests for large print or Braille yearbooks, as long as the student has an IEP or 504 plan. Some schools even have digital yearbooks that are cheaper than the normal hardback copies. To learn more about these services, contact the yearbook staff as far in advance as possible- this could be a great opportunity to teach students about accessible materials. However, since I had trouble getting textbooks and worksheets enlarged, I elected to pick my battles and just get a normal print copy of the yearbook.
Underline friend’s names and write them larger
In my yearbooks, student names are sorted by grade and then in alphabetical order. One of my friends would use colored pens to underline the names of my friends, and write them larger on the edge of the page if needed. They would use a different color and draw a line to the edge of the page for my name, so I could easily find myself.
Remind people to write large…but not too large
Everyone signing my yearbook knew I had terrible eyesight, and would write in a size equivalent to 18 pt font. I had some people decide to take up an entire page with large text, but that wasn’t necessary.
Use brightly colored pens
I used my normal Sharpie extra-fine tip pens to have people sign, and let people choose from a variety of colors. This helped provide contrast on the page, so I could easily see who wrote where. These pens did not bleed through the paper. I talk about these pens in my post about what’s in my bag for class.
Alternatively, use a large tip pen and glue
One of my friends with a progressive low vision condition showed me their yearbook, where people had signed using a large tip pen. In order to ensure they would be able to read the messages even after their vision got worse, my friend’s mom traced over the messages using a glue pen and let it dry, so that way my friend could run their fingers over the page and read the messages.
Order extra pages in the yearbook for signing
With people writing in large print, pages tend to fill up fast. When ordering the yearbook, request the extra blank pages for people to sign. These are usually on a more glossy paper, so don’t close the book immediately after signing.
Some people have handwriting that naturally resembles cursive, and that’s okay. If possible, avoid having people write in cursive or decorative text, as that can be difficult to decipher. Encourage people to write as clearly as possible so that their words may be read.
Signing yearbooks with dysgraphia
I have dysgraphia, meaning my handwriting is very difficult to read, not only for myself, but for others. When signing yearbooks, I would try to write slowly and clearly, and also tell the person what I am writing. Another one of my friends with more severe dysgraphia would draw a picture or have another friend write on their behalf.
If needed, check what others will write
This is more for younger students, but if there is a concern that someone will write a negative remark about low vision or other mean thing, have the person say what they’re going to write first. I had a few people write teasing remarks about my low vision, and while I wasn’t initially thrilled about it, these things do happen.
If a yearbook is too expensive, try making an end-of-year scrapbook with photos and mementos of the school year, and have lots of pages for people to sign. My friend created one of these and took pictures of all their friends and teachers, and included other photos from throughout the year, tickets from school performances, confetti from a dance, and other cool things.
Not all students may want to be included in yearbook activities, and that’s okay. Every student is different, after all. However, for those that do want one, yearbooks can still be made accessible to those even with low vision, so there’s no reason to be left out.