At the beginning of each school year, I often have the opportunity to teach people about how to create accessible materials for someone with low vision, and always stress the importance of font choice. There are millions of fonts in the world, and many times the more creative font choices are difficult to read or look strange when in large print. Today, I will be sharing my eight favorite free fonts for print disabilities, low vision, and accessible (large print) materials.
As my TVI once explained, Arial is one of the best fonts for vision impairment because every letter is simple and looks different from the other letters, and it also looks fantastic in bold type. I especially love using Arial with digital materials since I can read it for long periods of time, but it has remained one of my top font choices for a long time. It comes pre-installed on almost every computer, making it easy to find as well. Read my post on ten lessons my TVI taught me here and learn more about why I prefer digital materials here.
Helvetica is very popular amongst designers since it can be found in various weights and enlarges beautifully. It is very similar to Arial in appearance, however I prefer to use Helvetica when I am reading on an inverted display (light text on a dark background) because the heavier font weight helps my eyes to focus on the page easier. Like Arial, Helvetica comes pre-installed on computers. Read more about simplifying reading with technology here and making things on the board easier to see here.
Bebas Neue uses all capital letters and clean lines, along with a well-defined shape that makes it easy to read. I love using it for headings since it is easy to recognize on a page, and use it as my font of choice for the logo and headings on my blog. Download Bebas Neue here and read more about what makes a website accessible here.
Calibri is the default font selection on Microsoft Word, and for good reason. It has high legibility in large print sizes and I have found it easier to distinguish the letter a from the letter u, as well as the letter g from y with this font. I like to use this font when typing so I can easily see what I am writing, but I will often change the font if I have eye fatigue because the thinner letters are hard to focus on. Calibri is pre-installed on computers. Read more about managing eye fatigue here.
Looking for a font that has specifically been designed for low vision users? The APHont may be the perfect font for you. Created by the American Printinghouse for the Blind, it's designed to be read quickly and clearly in any font size or weight, with longer tails on the letters Q, G, J, and Y. In order to download this font, users need to certify that it will be used by someone with vision impairment, but it is otherwise free. Download APHont here and read more about what I have learned about print disabilities here.
Ok, I know many people who dislike Comic Sans and think it is the most useless font in existence. However, it is one of the few dyslexia and vision impairment friendly fonts that is available everywhere, since the letters are easy to focus on and look unique. While this font is fantastic for elementary school aged students, it's worth noting older students may be teased for having all of their accessible materials in this font. Comic Sans is pre-installed on most computers with no download needed. Read my letter to elementary school teachers from the perspective of a low vision student here.
While cursive fonts should be avoided whenever possible, most students will have to learn cursive at some point and practice tracing letters. For this purpose, Lavanderia is probably the best cursive font for someone with low vision, primarily because of its heavy weight and easy to distinguish letters, which is beneficial for someone learning to write with dysgraphia. Download Lavanderia here and learn more about dysgraphia accommodations here.
Remember how I mentioned older students may be teased for having all of their accessible materials in Comic Sans, even though it is a great font? A fantastic alternative is OpenDyslexic, which features a weighted bottom and easy to distinguish letters for someone with a print disability. It seems to be everywhere when it comes to accessibility products- I was first introduced to it with Bookshare, where it was a font option for one of their eReading programs, and have also seen it in many other products since. Download OpenDyslexic here, and read more about Bookshare here.
Every student is different, so it's important to play with different fonts, sizes, and weights to determine which font works best for each student and each subject. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my eight favorite free fonts for print disabilities like low vision, and that you find a font that you love.