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How To Design for the Blind?

Designing for accessibility is an important factor in both web and print design, yet many companies that do not specifically cater to disabled persons actually incorporate all accessible design best practices. One disability that is often ignored is blindness, evident in the design all around us. When was the last time you saw a business card with embossed Braille? Browse to a few random websites – how many of them are accessible by blind people?  The sad fact is few designers consider the blind when they create their designs.

The problem is that design is largely considered a visual medium, but that’s a paradigm that has to change. Design is a communication medium, and as such it needs to be able to communicate to everyone, not just those with good eyesight.  Nearly 7 million people in the U.S. and 39 million people worldwide are blind, and 285 people worldwide have vision impairment that, in many cases, requires the use of alternative assistance.  Even if you’re not likely to design for pure accessibility purposes, it’s clear to see that blind people represent a very large market, and one that can only be served by companies that cater to it.

Designing for the blind in print

Designing for the blind doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are certain factors you have to take into consideration.  In print, the use of Braille is preferred. Many printing companies can emboss Braille symbols on business cards, posters, flyers and other print marketing materials to make them easy for blind people to read.  You don’t even have to know Braille to incorporate it into your designs.  Use a Braille translator, though I recommend authenticating its accuracy before going to print.

Designing for the blind on the web and for mobile

Web and mobile accessibility for the blind requires certain considerations. Much has been written about designing for accessibility in general, and the following links will help you craft designs communicate with the blind.

  • W3C Accessibility Guidelines:  Learn the best practices of designing for accessibility, not just for the blind, but all people who have special considerations.
  • Creating Accessible Websites: The American Foundation for the Blind covers everything you need to know about creating websites for blind people.
  • Understand Technology for the Blind: This page details what types of devices and software are commonly used by the blind. Screen readers, which translate text to either audio or Braille, or the most common devices used by the blind. When you understand how blind people use the web, you can better design to cater to those devices. This is why descriptive links and image alt text are so important.
  • Browsers for the Blind: Some people prefer to use special browsers to help them read websites. These include WebbIE, MozBraille (a Firefox extension) and several others.
  • Understand Mobile Technology for the Blind: Both Android and Apple have accessibility features and apps to make it easy for the blind to use their smartphones and tablets. Not only should you design websites to function with accessibility on these devices, you should similarly design any applications to do the same.

Designing for the blind represents taking extra steps to ensure accessibility, but your efforts will not be made in vain. Not only does accessibility provide access to your content, it allows you to market to the visually impaired. Finally, being able to design for the blind makes you more marketable as a designer, therefore creating new opportunities to grow your own career. Designing for the blind isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

Author Bio:- Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.

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