fonts for low-vision?
January 6, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Best fonts for a large print letter for reader with macular degeneration

My MIL is 89 and has macular degeneration.

Her ability to read seems to vary from one day to the next. I write her letters (snail mail!) and she has asked me to print them in a larger font.

I've read that 16 and up is considered large print. The sample she showed me from a newsletter that works for her, seems to be printed in bold, and seems to be about size 16, so I can do that. But I don't know much about fonts.

Are certain fonts easier to read in large print? I'm pretty sure I've never used anything but the default.
posted by egk to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I don't have any actual experience in this, but I would assume that a font like Arial which doesn't have a lot of serifs on the letters would be easier to read than something like Times New Roman.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:56 AM on January 6, 2011

All I've been told is to avoid anything stylised or florid; and that fonts that have some parts of the letter much thinner than the other (Times New Roman is probably the most you should go in that direction).

With macular degeneration she's losing the central field of vision, which may mean that how you set the letter out is also important (so she doesn't 'lose' the sentence she's reading); general info on setting out clear text from the RNIB.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:57 AM on January 6, 2011

You're going to want to avoid serifs, for most people they make it easier to distinguish the letters, but the fiddly parts will be hard for someone with declining sight to make out.

Try a large version of Helvetica or Arial, if you have the bold version of one of those fonts (it'll say bold in the name) then use that, otherwise make sure you take a good look at the bolding that Word does, sometimes it makes the letters a little blurry around the edges, which wouldn't be a great help.
posted by dadici at 11:58 AM on January 6, 2011

Tiresias. Here's why.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:59 AM on January 6, 2011

I would go for in this order

Helvetica bold
Arial bold
Times new roman bold

I am registered blind and find helvetica easy to read.
posted by moochoo at 12:00 PM on January 6, 2011

Grandmother Fabula is also 89 with advanced MD. She reads 24-point Helvetica Black pretty well, as long as I provide lots of space between lines. She does not do well reading Times bold or any serif font, unless I make them enormous (like 72 points, not practical for letter writing).

A couple years ago, she went through a phase where she could read text printed in red better than any other color. That has subsided now, and she can only make out black text (or very dark brown) on a light-colored background.

I hear, but have not tested, that she might do better reading in all-capital letters.

Good luck, and bless you for writing letters to your MIL!
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2011

Large print guidelines, from the American Printing House for the Blind. They've commissioned an evidence-based font for the visually impaired, which can be obtained by contacting them (info at bottom of page). But it does look fairly Helv-Arialish.
posted by nelljie at 9:43 PM on January 6, 2011

Actually, looks like once you confirm it's for your MIL, you can just download it.
posted by nelljie at 9:45 PM on January 6, 2011

Thank you so much! I knew Mefi would know.

I will print one page of the next letter several times in a variety of fonts for her feedback.

I had never considered the possibility of using colored text or all caps. Lots of variables!

I got an error when I tried to download the font from American Printing House for the Blind. I've sent them an email.

I am trying the InfoFont from Tiresias.

Thanks very much; she likes getting something in the mail that is not a bill and I prefer letters to phone calls for her and just about everyone else, really.
posted by egk at 2:48 PM on January 9, 2011

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