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ADCET Webinar: Accessible Assessments for Students with Vision Impairment

This webinar looked at the Round Table’s (Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities) Guidelines for Accessible Assessment. The updated guidelines were launched in May 2019 and contain recommendations designed to make assessment materials accessible to students of all ages and levels of education.

A copy of the guidelines can be downloaded from:

The webinar covers::

  1. Accessible Assessment
  2. General Considerations
  3. Responsibilities of Specialist Teachers (VI)/Disability Service Practitioners
  4. Accessible Format Papers
  5. Examination Environment and Conditions

At the end of the webinar, participants will have a better understanding of how to prepare and administer assessments that are accessible and usable to students with vision impairment, so that results reflect their skill level and understanding rather than their limited access to printed information. 

(November 2019)


Jacqui Donnelly

Jacqui Donnelly works for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children as part of the School Support Service Team. She has over 25 years experience working with children with sensory impairment and additional disabilities. As a Specialist Teacher (Vision Impairment) working in mainstream schools, Jacqui equips students and their teachers with strategies to overcome the challenges in making educational materials both accessible and meaningful to students.

Jacqui's answers to the questions asked:

(Select the '+' to read answers)

Is there different assistive software for MAC users vs PC users?”

Different platforms support different Assistive Technology screen reading and screen magnification programs.

Below is a list of some of the accessibility options available in the PC and Mac environments:


Windows comes with Narrator, an inbuilt text to speech program controlled by keyboard commands. It’s simple but improving with each new version of Windows.

NVDA or Non-Visual Desktop Access is a free open-source screen reader that is improving in sophistication over time.

JAWS or Job Access with Speech is the industry standard screen reader and only runs on Windows. A free 40 minute trial version is available for download. The trial is endless, but to get another 40 minutes you need to restart the computer.

ZoomText is a paid screen magnification, text augmentation and (limited) screen reader that operates by itself or in conjunction with JAWS in a Windows environment.

All iOS products come with VoiceOver, an inbuilt text to speech program. Navigation and speech are controlled by keyboard commands or touch gestures.

The above programs are dependent to some extent on the way that websites and documents are constructed and coded. This is steadily improving with new accessibility guidelines, but there’s never a guarantee that a document or website will behave perfectly, and that could impact a student’s access to it regardless of the software they are using over the top.

Voice Dream Reader on iOS is a powerful combination of a very simple ZoomText and JAWS. If you go to around 2:30 you’ll see a pre-loaded text in large print with text to speech. From there on it’s pretty repetitive, demonstrating different free and paid voices, so you’ll get the idea after a minute or so.

ClaroSpeak is similar but some would say not as good. 

KNFB Reader is a very good text to speech/braille/text highlighting app. $160.00

See also Seeing AI, CaptiVoice (free) and this:

Open Book software by Freedom Scientific may be of interest, but it’s not cheap. It converts print to speech and costs around $1400. It’s distributed in Australia by Quantum.


Safari has Reader View on some pages. This allows the student to simplify and customise the formatting, making the print easier to access with fewer visual distractions. Chrome, Edge and Firefox have Reader View. IE has Reading View. All similar.

Is there a recommended font size and type for printed text?

There is no one font size suitable for all people with low vision.

Whilst Arial or Verdana size 12 is clear and usually readable by typically sighted members of the community, this will not be the case for a person with vision impairment.

Documents prepared for individuals with vision impairment should be prepared according to the font size and style (and paper size/colour if appropriate) recommended by an Orthoptist or other vision specialist as part of a Functional Vision Assessment.
Large print goes up to size 36 and is based on the size and style that the individual can read with the greatest degree of accuracy and fluency over time. It will not be the smallest text the individual can see on a page.

In addition:

  • documents should have clear headings (using Styles in Word) and be logically structured so that the text is easy to follow
  • use adequate spacing between lines and paragraphs to reduce cluttering
  • sans-serif fonts (for example Arial, Verdana) are easier to read than fonts containing serifs (for example Times New Roman). Avoid fonts that are ornate, decorative or look like handwriting.
  • Ensure that all text, including text that appears smaller in the original, is the appropriate size. Text under images, in diagrams and in hyperlinks may need to be enlarged further to make it the correct size. Similarly, mathematical text such as operation symbols, superscripts and subscripts will need to be enlarged more than the standard text. This may necessitate increasing the base font size of the rest of the text so that all text remains in proportion and correctly positioned within the document
  • Some people with low vision prefer bold text over normal weighted text
  • Restrict the use of block capitals, italics and underlining as these can make text more difficult to read
  • Align text to the left margin, do not use right aligned or justified text
  • Avoid vertical or curved text
  • Use uniform tables, and ensure they have clear borders and the text is suitably spaced from the border lines. Repeat table headings at the top of each page and do not split cells
  • Ensure that the gutter between columns of text is sufficiently wide to avoid text from one column running into another. Alternatively, place a dividing line between the columns so the text in each column is easily distinguishable
  • Make sure that graphics are high contrast, not pixelated and labelled appropriately
  • Bind documents on the left and make sure the left margin is wide enough so that the document can be opened flat. For longer documents, spiral binding may be the best option
  • Be aware that the page numbers on large print documents will not correspond to the page numbers on the original document. It is useful to include both original and large print page numbers for reference and ease of navigation
  • Be aware that some individuals with vision impairment experience visual fatigue during visual tasks and need to take regular breaks to rest their eyes

For more information on this topic, refer to the Clear Print Guidelines: