Educational posters are common fixtures in K-12 classrooms, as teachers love to find ways to present information in a fun and visual way that students can easily reference by looking around the classroom. However, blind students or students with low vision frequently do not have that same advantage, as they are likely unable to see objects from far away or text written on the wall. One of the ways that teachers and staff can make this material available to all students is by learning how to digitize classroom posters for students with vision loss, and create accessible classroom posters for students with visual impairments. Here are my tips on how to create accessible classroom posters for students with visual impairments, inclusive of blindness and low vision.
Why should I make classroom posters accessible?
So why should teachers take the time to make their classroom posters and materials accessible to students with visual impairments? After all, posters aren't what comes to mind when thinking of accessible educational materials, right? Here are some examples of how posters are used in the classroom, and why students may struggle with reading them:
- During classroom activities, students in the classroom can often look around and get information from their surroundings that can be helpful to them, while students with visual impairments have to rely on their memory and nothing else
- For activities with spelling, students may have trouble seeing how to spell a word written on a poster as letters may blur together
- Symbols such as exponents or subscripts are often smaller and harder to see
- Diagrams or other charts may be difficult to distinguish if the colors look similar or there is lots of small font
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Examples of classroom posters/decorations that should be described
When I talk about creating accessible classroom posters, here are some examples of what types of classroom posters/decorations that should be transcribed for students:
- Word walls for spelling
- Grammar rules/charts
- Math equation formats
- Classroom notes and activities written by the teacher
- Maps and graphs
- Scripts or text that students recite, i.e Pledge of Allegiance (for young students)
- Educational materials that cover the whole classroom, i.e list of US Presidents
This isn't about giving students with visual impairments an unfair advantage or extra information, rather it is a way to ensure that all students are able to access the same information in the classroom without straining their eyes.
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What to include when creating accessible posters
When creating accessible classroom posters, the following information should be included:
- All of the text written verbatim
- Short alt text descriptions of pictures or graphics, if they are relevant
- Tactile or high-contrast images of graphics, if available
- For Braille materials, spell out words in both contracted and uncontracted Braille- the teacher of the visually impaired can help with this
Descriptions should be created in the same format or formats that the student uses to access other classroom materials. For me, this would mean that the text is in size 36 pt Arial font printed out on off-white paper, or in a digital format that I can access on my computer or other devices as needed.
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
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What not to include when creating accessible posters
When creating accessible classroom posters, the following information should be excluded:
- Decorative images that are not educational, such as swirls or random cartoon characters
- Simplified versions of the text on the poster- write exactly what is printed on the poster
- Text for motivational or otherwise non-educational posters, unless they are requested by the student
- Overly detailed descriptions that describe unnecessary information, such as what the color red looks like or what a giraffe is
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How to store poster descriptions
Since other students do not look at classroom posters outside of the classroom, there's no need for students with visual impairments to take their poster descriptions with them outside of the classroom. However, it's still important to store poster descriptions in a place that is easy to access for the student and that doesn't make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when they use it.
Some great options for storing poster descriptions include:
- Three ring binder- be careful using plastic page covers as these can cause glare
- Plastic spiral bound or comb bound book
- Digital file such as a Microsoft Office Sway document or PDF
Students can store the accessible posters at their desk or in an area near their desk that they would be able to easily locate without help.
- Common File Types For Vision Impairment and Print Disabilities
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Alternative ways to make classroom posters accessible
Another way to create accessible copies of classroom posters is by taking a high resolution photo of the poster or scanning it with an app such as Microsoft Office Lens so that the student can easily access images from their own devices. This works best for students with low vision who typically use magnification or that prefer to have items close to their face.
Students can also choose to use an image recognition app to read classroom posters as needed, though they may not feel comfortable moving around to see a poster or having to get up to magnify information.
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
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- Google Lookout App For Low Vision
While I never thought to ask my teachers to create accessible classroom posters for me, I have since seen how having access to these posters can help students with visual impairments and other print disabilities can help them be more successful in the classroom, as they are able to read the same materials as everyone else. I hope that these tips for creating accessible classroom posters are helpful for other teachers as well!