Andy Keyworth

What is Large Print and Why is it Important?

Large Print (also large print, large-print, large font, and large type) is the term for print or digital text documents in which the font size/typeface is much larger than standard font size. A larger font size makes reading easier for people with low vision.

Like braille, large print is an alternative format, which applies to a document formatted or printed specifically for users with disabilities.

People with visual impairments—from color blindness to complete blindness—can greatly benefit from having access to content presented in alternative formats that cater to their specific needs.

Large print font size

Most books (excluding children’s books) use 10 to 12-point type, whereas newspapers are often 8-point type. For reference, the print industry measures type size in points that range from the bottom of the lowest letter to the tallest capital letter. Different font types with the same point size will still appear differently.

The minimum font size for large print is usually 16 to 18-point. The U.S. Postal Service offers services under the term “Free Matter for the Blind”: the minimum size for their mailing standard is 14-point type.

The large print guidelines from the American Council for the Blind recommend a base font size of 18 points, with the main heading at 22 points and subheadings at 20 points.

Some essential considerations

Large print includes other considerations besides font size alone. These include:

  • using sans-serif font families, such as Arial or Verdana; these use simpler characters that are easier to distinguish;
  •  providing ample spacing between characters and words to make both easier to comprehend and;
  •  a flush left margin and ragged right margin (i.e., not justified margins);
  •  highly visible punctuation marks, including bullet points.

In addition, the overall document should be reflowed or rendered such that all content, including headings, images, and text structures, occupy the available width of the medium and replace any instances of multiple columns with a single column. These characteristics help readers with visual disabilities to distinguish the content and navigate it more easily.

Why use large print instead of braille?

Large print is a versatile format that can assist a wide range of users with visual impairments. The term “visual disabilities” covers not only those who are blind but also those who have partial sight. Most people with visual impairments are not completely blind. 

According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, about 85% of people with visual impairments worldwide have some degree of vision. Many low-vision individuals can read regular print but may have difficulty reading small print or specific fonts. They may also experience eye strain or fatigue while reading.

Low vision can have a variety of causes. As people age, their visual acuity tends to decrease, which can lead to developing low vision over time. Some people may experience sudden vision loss due to injury or illness, while others may have lifelong disabilities that affect their ability to see and read print.

Large print is a helpful solution available in printed materials and online text. It can make reading more accessible and more comfortable for people with low vision, including those with tunnel vision or partial sight. Using large print can also help to reduce eye strain and exhaustion.

This takes on an added poignancy when one remembers that, as the average North American age increases, the number and needs of individuals with visual disabilities are also likely to grow.

Allyant has in-depth experience in creating and improving large print documents. We have a team of experts who regularly evaluate, design, and deliver large print format documents for small, medium, and large organizations. We work with a range of customers, including educational institutions such as school boards and universities, financial institutions like banks that require secure handling of personal account statements, different levels of government, and even restaurants that need Large Print menus.

If you represent an organization that needs to provide documents to users with low vision, please contact Allyant to learn about our large print services.