A young student I work with recently asked me if I knew anything about finding accessible friendship bracelet patterns, or if I could help them figure out how to make the bracelets. In their class, making friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss or yarn is a very popular activity, and while the student is able to see the bright colors in the tutorials, it’s more difficult for them to read the text or symbols that are included in the patterns. In addition, many of the videos they encountered online were not descriptive enough, or left them wondering how to make the bracelets correctly. Here are my tips for how to make accessible friendship bracelet patterns for blind or low vision users, inspired by the popular VSCO bracelets on social media.
Start with simple patterns, such as Chinese Staircase or Candy Stripe
When first learning how to make friendship bracelets, it’s helpful to start with simple patterns that do not require detailed weaving directions, such as the Chinese Staircase or Candy Stripe patterns. These involve having the user cross one piece of thread over the other in the shape of a 4, and then pulling the string through to form a knot. These were my favorite types of bracelets to make in middle school because it was easy to get creative with different color combinations, and they were easy for me to work with.
Use bright, high-contrast colors in the patterns
When creating or modifying friendship bracelet patterns, it helps to use bright. high-contrast colors that are easy to distinguish, so that users can easily see where the different strands of thread are. While they do not have to use the same exact colors as shown in the patterns, users may find it easier to understand how to complete a pattern if the colors are different from each other. It also helps to make sure that the patterns are accessible for users with color blindness or other color deficiencies- there are lots of free web tools that can simulate color blindness and help users figure out how to choose better color combinations.
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Add weighted shapes or symbols that stand out against the background
Another component of friendship bracelet patterns is the use of shapes and symbols to show what type of knot to use, or what direction the knot should go in. When adapting friendship bracelet patterns for low vision, it helps to add weighted shapes or symbols that feature bold text and stand out against the colored background, so that users can easily see them- these can be added in the form of text boxes on top of the existing graphic or by tracing over symbols with a pen tool. A well-known hack for making text easy to see on any background is using white text with a black outline, or black text with a white outline- this is used in many memes and reaction images online to make text easier to see.
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Look for text-based tutorials online
In some cases, it is easier to follow text instead of an image-based pattern when learning how to make friendship bracelets with low vision. Luckily, there are lots of text-based tutorials available online that allow users to create their own bracelets, as well as text-based video descriptions for videos on TikTok and similar streaming platforms. I recommend running a web search for friendship bracelet instructions or friendship bracelet tutorials to get inspired.
Write alt text/image descriptions for image-based tutorials
When posting image-based tutorials for friendship bracelets on social media, it’s helpful to include alt text and/or image descriptions so that users of assistive technology can follow along with the tutorials. Instead of describing what each individual thread looks like, I recommend writing out instructions so that users can follow along, using an extended image description tool if needed.
- How To Write Alt Text For Amateur Art
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Use an app like Coolors to find color combinations that work well
One of my friends introduced me to the Coolors app for iOS as a way to easily generate random color palettes and to let me experiment with different color combinations. While not all of the color palettes are perfect, the app itself is very simple and allows me to easily see all of the colors on the screen, as well as check to see how they look with different forms of color blindness. Users can also access the palette generator from the Coolors website, which is linked below.
Download an accessible book on Bookshare
Did you know that Bookshare has accessible copies of popular books on how to make friendship bracelets? This is an awesome resource for students who already receive Bookshare for free, as well as people with paid memberships who are looking for a fun activity to do with friends or family members. I recommend using the advanced search option to find books on friendship bracelets, as this is the fastest way to find specific titles.
Create audio description for video tutorials
For people who love to watch video tutorials on creating friendship bracelets or VSCO-inspired bracelets, why not take a few minutes to create audio description for videos on YouTube so that people who can’t see the screen can follow along? I have an entire post on creating audio description for crafting tutorials linked below, which uses the free YouDescribe tool and doesn’t require any additional technology.
- Creating Audio Description For Crafting Tutorials With YouDescribe
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Creating friendship bracelets is a lot of fun, and it’s a great activity to do with friends to practice with choosing fun color combinations and improving coordination. I hope this post on how to make friendship bracelet patterns accessible for blind and low vision users is helpful for others!