As a student with fluctuating low vision, one of the most valuable skills I have developed is how I document accessibility preferences with low vision. My low vision is not static, and can change multiple times throughout the day. Alternatively, I might need to have larger text settings for one particular software than I do for other applications, so being able to have a specific list of accessibility preferences for each tool I work with is extremely helpful for ensuring I have what I need to succeed. Here is how I document accessibility preferences with low vision, and how I use these documents for myself and others.
How I organize accessibility preferences
I organize all of my accessibility preferences based on the name of the software or application I am using. I collect these documents on my computer and store them in a folder so I can easily send a document to my professors or other students about my preferred accessibility settings. Some students may prefer a more organized approach such as a OneNote notebook or Sway document, but I prefer the single paged documents instead.
- How I Organize Digital Files For My Classes
- Microsoft Office OneNote
- Microsoft Office Sway
- Common File Types For Vision Impairment and Print Disabilities
Why I organize accessibility preferences
When I was telling one of my friends about how I was writing this post, they asked me why I would need to document my accessibility preferences if I frequently use the same computer. Some of the reasons I do this include:
- I use other computers when I am in the classroom and during testing, so being able to configure my settings to a familiar environment is important to me
- Even though everything is backed up, there’s always a risk of my settings being reset
- An important part of self-advocacy is knowing what accommodations I need, and why I need them
- My Disability Services file in college does not factor in settings for software that I use for my classes, rather it gives a general guideline for how I receive accessible materials
- I can easily show these documents to professors or other students with low vision to help them in the future
- What To Bring To The Disability Services Testing Center
- Learning to Self-Advocate
- Eight Things You Need To Know About Your IEP
- How To Create A Disability Services File
Preferred font size and style
On my high school IEP, my preferred font size and style was 24-point Arial font. While this is still one of my favorite fonts and font sizes, I’ve found that there are some instances where I need larger or smaller font. In addition, I might use a different font style for writing code than I do for writing an essay. So I make sure to note my favorite font size and style for each subject or software
When I need larger font
In classes such as math and science, every single letter or symbol is relevant, and there are often subscripts and superscripts included. When I am reading instructions for assignments, I increase the font size to 36 and ensure that all subscripts and superscripts are also enlarged to a readable font size. My professors are happy to accommodate this in college and will make sure that documents can be adjusted to my preferred font size
When I need smaller font
As a data science major, I work with lots of different types of software, almost all of which supports custom font sizes and types. I’ve found that when I am reading things from a screen, I prefer to use an 18 point font size so that I can view everything on the page without scaling issues, and I can also use screen magnification to enlarge things if needed.
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Accommodations For Print Materials
- Five Websites That Help Students With Low Vision In The Math Classroom
Page/screen color and brightness
I love reading on colored or tinted backgrounds to reduce glare and eye strain. When I work with software for my data science classes, I like to use the high contrast themes in Windows 10 whenever I can, as this helps me with being able to read code. However, some applications look strange with a dark mode, so instead I use a lighter color scheme and add a blue light filter or heavier screen tint instead. In my accessibility preferences, I note which color scheme I prefer, or if I need to make any adjustments in my computer’s settings for optimal readability.
- Using High Contrast Themes In Windows 10
- Ten Ways to Reduce Eye Strain With Technology
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Windows 10
Zoom level or additional magnification
Sometimes, instead of just enlarging the text of the screen, I will use a different scaling setting so that I can make buttons or menus bigger. However, most of the time I prefer to use external magnification software such as Magnifier and make a note as to what percentage works best for magnifying different sections of the screen. For example, if I am using a remote desktop software, I would document that I use screen magnification in the window view at 225%.
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
- Computer Lab Accommodations For Low Vision Students
Use of a screen reader
While I prefer to use magnification whenever possible, there are moments when I find that I need to use a screen reader. One of the things I have noted in my accessibility document is when/if I will need to use a screen reader to access information. For example, when I have to read certain dialog boxes, I prefer to have my screen reader read me things so that I can figure out what is going on.
Another thing I like to note is the speed of my screen reader. I typically have a quicker voice speed for when I am reading long documents than I do for when I am reviewing code I wrote for class. While some advanced screen reader users can use the same speed for everything, I am still learning my own preferences and prefer the slower voice speeds for proofreading.
Sometimes, there are environmental issues that can change my accessibility preferences, which is why I include additional notes on settings I may not always need, but that are helpful to have. Being in a too-bright room, having lots of eye fatigue, or similar factors outside of my control can change how I interact with technology, so I make sure to note these changes. Most of these changes are as simple as increased screen magnification or different color schemes.
I love using multiple monitors/screens to do some of my assignments, while other times I prefer to use one screen only so that I can focus on everything. Other times, I have to use an app on my Android phone or iPad in conjunction with another software, such as when I am using a calculator for my math class. If I need to have additional devices or applications to be successful, this gets documented.
- Five Calculator Apps That Help Students With Low Vision In The Classroom
- Ways I Use My Google Chromecast For Virtual Learning
What an example accessibility preferences document looks like
Here is a sample document of my accessibility preferences for using a popular application in my data science class called SQLiteStudio:
- Preferred font size/style- SQLEditor font Consolas 20 pt
- Page/screen color and brightness- High contrast black theme as needed
- Zoom level or additional magnification- Use Magnifier at 200% when reading error messages
- Use of a screen reader- Normal speed as needed
- Environmental considerations- If eye fatigue is a concern, use high contrast and/or screen reader
- Additional hardware- Second monitor if working with another document
Having the ability to document my accessibility preferences for the software I use in my everyday classes has been extremely helpful, as this means I am able to configure any copy of the application to be exactly how I like it. I encourage all students to document their accessibility preferences so that they can give feedback on accessible materials and learn more about assistive technology.