When I lived in college dorm/on-campus housing, the resident advisors for my floor would create dorm door signs and dorm door decorations for students that included their name and a fun design. There are a lot of creative dorm door decorations, and I received an email from a community assistant at another college who was wondering how to make dorm door signs accessible and easy-to-see for a new resident that has low vision. I was so excited to read about how the community assistant wanted to include their resident with low vision and create a decoration they can see, and today I will be sharing my tips for how to create dorm door signs and dorm door decorations for low vision.
Use high contrast colors
Instead of using colors that match the door or that are close to each other, I recommend using bright, saturated, high-contrast colors when creating dorm door signs and decorations so that the shapes are easy to identify. Some examples of high contrast color schemes and dorm door decoration designs my resident advisors made include:
- A cobalt blue and lime green lava lamp/cobalt blue and lime green Mystery Machine car
- Colorful postcard featuring a painting of a national park in Virginia
- Purple rubber duck
- Bright pink lollipop/cookie on a stick (honestly, I’m not 100% sure what it was)
- Light green avocado
- Fish made out of a gradient paint chip
- Flower pot with colorful flowers
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Write names/text in large print
When writing names on door decorations, write them in large print sizes, 24 pt font or larger, and avoid using cursive fonts that can be more difficult to read for people with print disabilities. While there are some people with low vision who prefer to read text written in all uppercase/capital letters, text does not have to be written in all caps to be read by the visually impaired, and writing text in all capital letters is not a substitute for large print.
Have an option to create dorm decorations without a name
When I lived in on-campus housing, I asked the resident advisor to not write my name on dorm decorations or use another word like “Welcome” or “Go Patriots!” (our school mascot) written instead of my name. This was done for safety reasons, as the resident director had suggested I remove decorations from my door that had my name on them following an incident involving my dorm. Instead of having a blank door with nothing on it that would stick out more, I would have the same decorations as everyone else but without my name on them. Nobody ever asked me about why my dorm decorations looked different, and I wasn’t the only student who did this either.
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Add stickers or raised textures to decorations
This is a fun detail for people who read braille or use tactile materials- consider adding stickers, textured materials, foam, or other tactile details to decorations, either for the entire hall or to add additional details for individuals with vision loss.
Some examples of materials that can be used for dorm door decorations include:
- Stick-on rhinestones
- Foam stickers
- Lego pieces
- Bottle caps
- Faux fur
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Displaying “Where are you” signs
Each of the ResLife staff members, including resident advisors/community assistants, had a “where are you” or “where am I” sign that would show where they were at the moment, with lines for different locations such as class, on duty, off-campus, in their dorm, do not disturb, etc. There are a few different strategies for making these signs accessible for residents with low vision and print disabilities, including:
- Having a different colored background for each line/location
- Attaching a binder clip, clothespin, paper clip, or other tactile label to the display that could not be easily moved
- Using a wheel template that only displays one section at a time, masking other options
- Writing text in a high contrast color, such as black text on a white background or white text on a black background
- For “Do Not Disturb” or “Do Not Enter”, consider hanging a door hanger on the knob/handle as an additional indication that the door should not be opened
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Create large scale lines with painter’s tape/washi tape
Painter’s tape and washi tape are a fun way to decorate a door without damaging it, and there are lots of designs online for creating large scale lines and line art with tape. Alternatively, residents can divide sections of their door with tape and decorate different sections of it with roommates/suitemates.
When I lived in my sophomore year dorm, I created a washi tape wall in my dorm with several short strips of different colored tape, which looked like confetti or sprinkles. This was a really fun design and I really liked it!
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Placing notifications on the door
I have trouble seeing small notes or notifications that are placed on my door, and discovered the hard way that these notifications don’t always stick when I received a student conduct violation letter for ignoring housing violations. Following this incident, important notifications such as room inspection reports are now sent via email instead of having violation notes placed on the door, and I recommend sending messages or notes via student email when possible instead of placing them on the door.
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More tips for dorm door decorations for low vision
- Some colleges may allow RAs and other staff to print braille labels for free or a discounted rate, which can be overlayed on top of name tags for residents with vision loss
- Students with vision loss may want to add a tactile dot sticker to their door to make it easier to locate the lock or identify their room
- Door decorations do not have to just take up a small section of the dorm- feel free to create larger scale designs that can be read more easily or identified
- At my tech internship, I had a sign on my door that said “I am a reverse ninja, you can see me but I can’t see you! Please identify yourself when knocking on the door or saying hi.” This would have been super helpful for my dorm door as well since I had trouble seeing who was at the door
- Dorm door decorations typically rotate every month or so, and some students will save decorations and add them to their dorm in subsequent semesters/school years