Andy Keyworth

Is Large Print Considered Assistive Technology (AT)?

Large Print is one of Allyant’s core service offerings. We can produce print or digital text documents in which the font size (or “typeface”) is much larger than the average font size and is specifically intended for use by people with low vision. It is one of our alternative format offerings, a term for document versions intended for users with disabilities. 

Read more: What are alternative formats, and why are they so important?

One question that often arises is whether large print falls under the category of assistive technology. Let’s clarify this distinction.

Assistive Technology: The official definition

While the term “alternative formats” implies that such documents are an alternative where an original version will not suffice, “assistive technology” can be a bit vague. 

The U.S. federal government defines assistive technology as:

“…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

[20 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Section 1401 (25)]

This is a very wide definition: it can include literally “any item”. The most significant part of the definition is how it is used: to paraphrase, it can preserve or amplify the ability of persons with disabilities to perform a wide variety of activities.

Can Large Print therefore increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities?

Large Print and users with partial vision

Our society includes persons with visual disabilities who are not blind but have some degree of vision: depending on estimates, approximately 85% of people with visual disabilities have at least some useful vision.

This group, by default, includes a wide variety of visual disabilities other than blindness and is sometimes grouped under the umbrella term “low vision”. 

Many people with low vision do not require a text-to-speech software application to read print but may struggle to read regular print sizes and certain fonts, or they may tire and suffer eye strain from reading. 

This can impact the overall speed at which they read and the total amount they can read. 

In today’s digital age, where videos are everywhere, reading is still an essential skill for functioning in society. We require reading to comprehend banking statements, credit card and utility bills, investment reports, mortgages, and other contracts. 

This does not even account for reading for general information, continuing education, or pleasure. 

In addition, the number of people with low vision is not static: as the average North American age increases, the number and needs of individuals with visual disabilities are also likely to grow. Visual acuity tends to decrease as people age, increasing the number of people to whom the above situations apply.

Can Large Print be considered AT?

We can easily understand that many of these users with low vision benefit from documents being available to them in different formats that address the umbrella of “low vision.” We can provide print or digital documents formatted in ways that reduce eye strain or exhaustion and make it easier to read and understand text. 

Large Print is is hallmarked by large font sizes, with sharply contrasting foreground-to-background colors, simpler “sans-serif” font families, ample spacing between characters, and highly visible punctuation. 

These qualities help address a wide variety of visual disabilities. As such, they preserve the abilities of people with visual disabilities to read, understand information, and participate meaningfully in various activities. 

They also protect and extend the independence and privacy of these people by making them less dependent on other people to read on their behalf. 

Therefore, since Large Print print meets the criteria of increasing, maintaining, and improving the functional capabilities of individuals with low vision, it can be considered an assistive technology.

Interested in producing Large Print?

Allyant offers Large Print production as a core service. We work with various small, medium, and enterprise customers, including school boards, universities, and other educational bodies; utilities, banks, and other financial institutions; different levels of government; and even restaurants. 

Many of our customers also require securely handled personal account statements, including banks and credit card companies; Allyant offers solid security to protect all our customers and their end users. If you represent an organization that needs or has a stake in providing documents to users with low vision, contact Allyant about our Large Print offerings.