Earlier tonight, a reader sent me a sweet Twitter thread trending about a young child who is working on a letter-writing project so that they can keep in touch with a variety of friends, family members, and pen-pals. The reader then asked me if I had any tips for writing letters to visually impaired recipients, and if there was anything they should avoid when writing letters to people who have low vision. Here are my tips for writing letters to visually impaired recipients, based on my own preferences as a person with low vision.
Write with a pen or marker with dark-colored ink
When writing to a person with low vision or other visual impairment, it is helpful to write with a pen or marker that has dark-colored ink, so that it provides adequate contrast against the background of the paper. While there is no need to only write in capital letters, it is helpful to write at least slightly larger than normal and make sure that words/numbers are easy to tell apart. Plus, it’s easier for users to read messages with assistive technology if the letters are easy to identify- I’ve linked some of my favorite apps for reading handwritten messages below.
- Eight Ways To Read Handwritten Cards With Assistive Technology
- Google Lens Review For Low Vision
- Microsoft Seeing AI And Low Vision Review
- Google Lookout App For Low Vision
- Writing Utensils and Low Vision
If typing a letter, ask what font size/style the recipient prefers
Some people may prefer to receive a typed letter over a handwritten one, and it’s helpful to ask what font size or style works best for the recipient to ensure that they are able to read the letter independently. While everyone is different, I prefer to read text with a sans serif, size 32 pt font. Asking about preferred print sizes isn’t considered an intrusive question at all- in fact, the recipient will likely be thrilled that you asked!
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Common Classroom Accommodations For Low Vision
Use print over script/cursive
I have a lot of trouble reading script/cursive writing since the letters are very close together and many of them look similar. In addition, my favorite assistive technology apps do not recognize cursive/script overly well, and it is much easier to read messages that are printed. For this reason, it is helpful to make sure there are spaces between individual letters in words so that they can easily be recognized.
- How I Use The HP Sprout To Improve My Handwriting
- Tips For Choosing Greeting Cards For Visually Impaired Recipients
Don’t worry about using words that talk about vision
Is it okay to say words such as see, look, view, watch, or similar terms when talking to someone who has a visual impairment? While a small percentage of people may be sensitive to these words, the overall consensus from members of the blind and low vision community is that these words are perfectly fine to use in everyday conversation and many people use these words themselves. So go ahead and recommend a movie to watch, the amazing view outside a window, or end the letter by saying “see you later”- these words are only offensive when used to insult someone.
Include art that features bright colors or other low vision-friendly materials
One of the fun parts about sending letters in the mail is being able to include fun art along with the letter or on the envelope. I recommend including art that features bright, easy to recognize colors, and choosing markers and pens over poor contrast materials such as pencils or crayons that can blend into a light-colored background. Of course, make sure that the art does not obscure any important information such as addresses or text!
- Tips For Creating Art For Visually Impaired Friends
- Art Classes and Low Vision
- Ten Ways Vision Impairment Influenced Classic Artists
Add descriptions of photos or art
If including photos or art in a letter, I recommend including a brief handwritten image description/alt text on the back of the photo/art or within the letter that says what is in the image. This is especially helpful for photos that may be slightly blurry or hard to identify, or that contain lots of people. I have several posts on writing alt text and image descriptions linked below for different types of content.
- How To Write Alt Text For Amateur Art
- How To Write Image Descriptions For Cosplay
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions For Instagram
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
If possible, choose a brightly colored envelope
While this may not always be an option, it helps to choose a brightly colored envelope when storing a letter, as these will be easier to identify so that the recipient doesn’t have to try and figure out where the letter is. At the very least, including a large easy-to-identify mark or drawing on the envelope can help tremendously with identifying mail- one of my friends would draw a large smiley face so I could easily find their letters.
It’s always fun to receive letters in the mail from my friends, and I have saved all of the notes I’ve received in a print or digital format so that I can reread them whenever I want. I hope this post on tips for writing letters to visually impaired recipients is helpful for others!