One of the factors that can influence how well I can read something is what type of writing utensil was used when writing out text or drawing a picture. It sounds strange, but for me there is a world of difference between using a high-contrast marker or pen versus using a smaller thin-line pen that may be more difficult to read. Here are my picks for the best writing utensils for people with low vision, and my least favorite writing utensils for low vision.
My favorite writing utensils for low vision
Sharpie pens are my absolute favorite writing pens for low vision, and I write with them whenever possible. I prefer to use the ultra fine-tip pens for writing assignments and taking quizzes or tests, though I also use the larger fine-tip pens for taking notes, creating formula sheets, or writing out information that I will have to read later. I love using different colored Sharpie pens, though I make sure that they can easily be read on whatever paper I am writing on and that they don’t blend in.
A lot of my friends use BoldWriter or 20/20 pens when writing out assignments or when people are writing text for them. These pens are incredibly popular amongst teachers as they are a simple black marker that can easily be used to write large, high-contrast text. They can be purchased online through websites such as MaxiAids, Amazon, or other blind tech stores.
Sounds strange, but I have been known to use children’s markers such as Crayola to write out information on cardstock in a pinch. This especially works well when I am sketching out visualizations or concepts for one of my classes, as I find these markers easier to grasp, as well as easier to find in a classroom. I prefer to write on cardstock as ink does not bleed through to the other side and I can easily hold the paper in my hand without it moving around.
Pens with dark ink
I find that pens with dark ink are easier for me to read compared to pens with lighter colored ink, especially in the case of red ink. I try to avoid writing with pens that have ink that smudges easily, since I tend to put my hand on the paper when I am writing, so it helps to look for pens that have quick-drying ink. I recommend going to an office supply store to try out a few different types of pens to see which one works best.
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My least favorite writing utensils for low vision
Pencils, especially mechanical pencils
Sometime around middle school, I realized that I had great difficulty seeing pencil because of the contrast of light gray lead on a light colored background. By the time I reached high school and my vision continued to change, I realized that writing with pencil was about the same as writing in invisible ink, since I couldn’t see it at all. Mechanical pencils are especially frustrating since they were so thin and broke easily compared to other pencils.
Poor quality pens
If a pen has an extremely thin or small tip or is running out of ink, I won’t be able to see it. The same goes for cheap gel pens, glitter pens, or brightly colored ink, as they do not provide enough background contrast and may rub off onto other surfaces. In addition, poor quality pen ink may not show up if a page is scanned in or copied- I once watched my homework disappear before my eyes when I went to make a copy and the pink ink I had written in didn’t show up on the new copy!
Erasable pens/liquid pencil
While erasable pens/liquid pencil can be beneficial for people who make a lot of mistakes, I prefer not to use them whenever possible. This is because of background contrast and also because ink may not erase completely, which can make it difficult to read written text on a page. If I have to rewrite something, I prefer to cross it out or write on a new page instead of having to worry about erasing things.
Anything that blends in with the background
Blue ink can be a great choice for writing on white backgrounds, but may be more difficult to read on a blue background or other dark-colored background. Since I frequently use a combination of colored pens and colored paper for receiving print accessible materials, it’s important to make sure that whatever I’m writing with will show up and be easy to read later. Backgrounds with lots of busy patterns or lines can also impact the readability of ink, as it might be difficult for the user to tell the difference between handwritten lines and printed lines, especially if they are the same size.
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Having the right writing utensils for low vision can make a tremendous impact on how well someone is able to read or write out information. By knowing the best writing utensils for low vision, people can ensure that their handwriting or the handwriting of others is visible and easy to read with or without additional magnification aids.