One of my friends is a resident advisor/community assistant (RA/CA) for their college dorm, and mentioned that they were working on creating accessible bulletin boards to display information for residents about events, college policies, and self-care tips. I thought this was awesome, because I often had trouble reading some of the bulletin boards in my previous dorm building, and put together a list of tips for creating accessible bulletin boards for college dorms that can be read by students with print disabilities, including vision loss (inclusive of blind/low vision), dyslexia, visual processing disorder, and similar conditions that impact the ability to read traditional printed materials.
Have QR codes for links and handouts
Instead of (or in addition to) printing websites and links in large print, I recommend adding a QR code for links to websites and online handouts/documents from the university website. For example, when I was helping another RA friend create a flyer for an upcoming ResLife training, we used a link shortener to make it easier for people to access the website on the flyer, and put a QR code next to the text that would take users directly to the link. We added a caption that said “Scan the QR code or go to:” followed by the shortened link so that readers would know the two links were the same.
Besides hosting links and documents, QR codes can also be used to display:
- Phone numbers
- Contact cards/vCards
- Email addresses
- Plain text
- Wifi passwords
- Events/calendar links
- Video links
There are a few different options for creating a QR code, including:
- Using the QR creator shortcut in the iOS Shortcuts app
- Accessing a free online QR code generator- I love QR.io because it has multiple options for linking content
- Bing’s search engine has a built-in QR generator that can be accessed by searching “QR code generator”
- There are several free web browser extensions for generating a QR code from a given website
On my mobile devices, I use the Google Lens feature on my camera or the Camera app on iOS to scan QR codes, and the information is automatically displayed in large print or with other accessibility settings enabled.
- Generate Customized QR Codes | QR.io
- Ten iOS Shortcuts For Visual Impairment
- How I Use Google Assistant While Traveling
- Options For Writing Extended Image Descriptions On Social Media
- Texting and Low Vision
Avoid cursive writing for body text/bullets
Cursive font and handwriting styles are difficult to read for people with low vision and similar print disabilities, so I strongly recommend using a simple font like Arial, Verdana, Comic Sans, or similar for displaying body text, bullets, or similar content. Cursive styles should be considered decorative and not used to display important information.
While some users with low vision may prefer to read text written in uppercase/capital letters, text does not have to be written in all caps for people with low vision to be able to read it.
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Five Myths About Print Disabilities
- What I’ve Learned About Print Disabilities
- Tips For Writing Letters To Visually Impaired Recipients
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
Send a digital version of bulletin boards to residents
Another creative way to make accessible bulletin boards is to send a digital version of bulletin boards and the information on them via email. When my resident advisor posted information about dorm move-out, they also sent out a document that had all of the information that was written on the bulletin board, along with links to additional websites and documents/forms- this can be done in a program like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Sway. Another option digital bulletin boards is to use a graphic design program like Canva to create images that could be displayed in high resolution, and have a link to a document with text and links attached for students who need to read information in another format.
- Creating Take-Away Documents With Microsoft Office Sway
- How To Create Accessible PowerPoints
- How To Create Accessible Classroom Posters For Students With Visual Impairments
Use color to divide sections
Color should not be used as the sole means of conveying information, but using color to divide sections of text and make it easier to locate items on a bulletin board is a helpful strategy for making text easier to locate for users with low vision. Designers have a few options for doing this, including using colored “frames” for text written on white paper, printing black text on a colored paper background, and using tape or colored paper to divide larger sections of the board.
Don’t use pencil to write information
Pencil on white paper provides very poor contrast for readers with low vision, and improperly erased pencil can be confusing for text recognition apps. Instead, use markers or other high contrast writing tools to display information.
For sign-up sheets, I recommend downloading a bold/high contrast lined paper template, which has large, defined lines that are easy to locate.
- Writing Utensils and Low Vision
- Assistive Technology For Dysgraphia
- Bold Line Templates — Statewide Vision Resource Centre (svrc.vic.edu.au)
Put tape frames around white paper so it’s easier to locate on a wall
Hanging a white piece of paper on a white or off-white wall can be difficult to see for people with low vision or easily ignored by people walking down the hall. To make notices easier to locate, create a tape frame with painter’s tape or washi tape that helps the paper “pop” against the wall and make it easier to locate.
Other tips for creating accessible bulletin boards for college dorms
- I typically would read bulletin boards in my dorm building by using my phone as a video magnifier or a visual interpreting app that can recognize text and read it out loud. Since the bulletin board was in a consistent location and I have some usable vision, I could tell when the board changed and posted new information
- A good font size for large print handouts on a college bulletin board is size 24 pt or larger
- I recommend using double-spacing between lines for text as this can help with line tracking and ensuring that lines don’t appear to be stacked on top of each other
- Looking for campus-specific disability resources for creating accessible bulletin boards? Reach out to Disability Services or an assistive technology specialist to learn more about accessibility and resources for students with disabilities.