Veronica With Four Eyes

Yearbooks and Low Vision

Yearbooks are a fun end-of-school-year tradition that allow students to celebrate their accomplishments and friendships that they have made during the year and provide opportunities for documenting memories. My school yearbooks are the only books I own that have a small/standard print size, but I’ve come up with a few strategies over the years for making yearbooks accessible for low vision and participating in yearbook signing traditions with dysgraphia/poor handwriting, and will be sharing these tips in today’s post.

Creating an accessible yearbook for low vision/blind students

I didn’t receive an accessible copy of my school yearbook, but I’ve had several blind and low vision friends tell me all about how their school helped them get a copy of the yearbook they could read on their own. Options for creating an accessible yearbook for low vision/blind students include:

  • Ordering a digital copy of the yearbook, which can be in the form of a tagged PDF, HMTL page, or EPUB. If the school has a yearbook class, the students can create an accessible copy of the yearbook for students with print disabilities by adding image descriptions for pictures from events and ensuring text can be resized in digital reading applications.
  • Scanning a copy of the physical yearbook into an accessible file format
  • Some schools have created braille yearbooks for students with visual impairments, which is awesome!

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Reading yearbooks with assistive technology

I recognize that accessible yearbooks can be difficult to create or request, but there are still several options for reading yearbooks with assistive technology for visual impairment. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Using a video magnifier or magnifying glass to enlarge images and text- I prefer the video magnifier because I have more options for magnification power than a standard magnifying glass
  • Visual assistance apps can read text out loud and provide basic visual descriptions
  • Video magnifiers can also be connected to external monitors/screens for a larger display, or students can use a desktop video magnifier/desktop CCTV to enlarge the contents of the book
  • Scanning pens can read text out loud as they are moved across the page, though I don’t recommend using these types of devices to scan yearbook pages into a computer because they don’t work as well with pictures.

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Underlining names of friends

In my middle and high school yearbooks, I would underline the names of my friends with various colors so it would be easier for me to locate them, or I would ask my friends to choose a color and underline their own name. It’s made it easier for me to find my friends in the yearbook when I go back to read it over the years. I use ultra-fine Sharpie pens for underlining names because they come in a lot of colors and don’t bleed through yearbook pages.

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Encourage people to write large, adding additional pages if needed

When people would sign my yearbook, they would ask me if I needed them to write in a larger size since I have trouble seeing. I would tell people that I appreciate large print, but they don’t need to take up an entire page when writing a message, and had them use an 18-point font size as reference for what I could see at the time. In order to fit all of the notes from classmates and teachers, students with low vision may want to purchase additional signing pages for their yearbook to accommodate for the larger handwriting sizes.

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Use brightly colored, high-contrast pens

I love colorful pens and regularly used Sharpie pens for completing assignments, so I had people use these pens when signing my yearbooks as well, choosing colors that provided adequate contrast against the colored paper in the yearbook- in other words, making sure that people didn’t use the orange pen to write notes on yellow paper. Some students may prefer larger-tip high contrast pens, though I recommend checking to make sure the ink color will not bleed to the other side of the page.

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Tracing signatures/adding tactile decorations

One of my friends had students and teachers sign their yearbook with larger-tip high contrast markers, and their mom traced over the messages with glue and let it dry so that my friend would be able to feel the signatures/notes. Another option for tracing is a High-Mark tactile pen, though it’s critical that users ensure that the tactile ink has time to “set” before closing the page.

I strongly recommend having people sign on single-side pages and avoid writing on the backs of pages since this can make tactile information difficult or impossible to read.

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Signing yearbooks with dysgraphia

I have poor handwriting as a result of dysgraphia, and would often write much slower than other students so that I could ensure whoever was reading my message could decipher what I wanted to say. Some other strategies friends with dysgraphia have used for signing yearbooks include:

  • Drawing a picture
  • Asking another friend to write on their behalf
  • Using a stamp
  • Having a line guide to assist with writing in a consistent size
  • Getting custom stickers made and adding them to the pages of a person’s yearbook

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What if someone writes something negative/mean in the yearbook?

One year, a student in my class wrote several negative and mean things in my yearbook, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it initially, since I couldn’t erase it, use white-out, cover things with stickers, or otherwise remove the messages due to where they were written. I reported the issue to my teacher and parents, who in turn worked with the principal to get me a new copy of the yearbook and helped me with copying over a few messages, as well as getting students to sign my yearbook again. I’m not sure if the other student was disciplined for what happened, as I wasn’t interested in getting them in trouble, I just wanted my yearbook fixed.

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Other tips for making yearbooks accessible for low vision

  • A fun yearbook alternative is to create an end-of-year physical or digital scrapbook with school mementos. My friend created one of these and took pictures of all their friends and teachers, and included other photos from throughout the year, tickets from school performances, confetti from a dance, and other cool things
  • Another option is to have a blank notebook that students and teachers can write messages in, with each student/teacher getting their own page. This can be decorated with school colors and other fun designs
  • Students can add bookmarks to the pages where their picture is featured or where they are mentioned in the yearbook, i.e bookmarking pages for club photos or other school events that they attended