Accessible Patterns – part 1

There was a request on twitter last week for some information about making knitting patterns accessible.  As this is my ‘day job’ I thought I’d add a few guidelines on here to point designers in the right direction. 

Firstly what does ‘accessible’ mean?  Essentially, it describes a document that is constructed so that there are no barriers to accessing the information.  I didn’t use the word read in that last sentence as there are a large number of people who prefer to listen to information rather than read printed text. The term ‘print impaired‘ is regularly used to describe someone who is not able to read the printed word. This could be for a wide variety of reasons such as dyslexia or other neurological conditions, limited or no vision or things like motor difficulties that make actually holding the paper, tablet or phone difficult. This ability may also vary according to the persons particular circumstance, so tiredness may impair concentration or poor lighting can make it impossible to decipher text and/or images. 

When discussing accessible patterns we are referring to digital versions that can be manipulated on screen and not simply magnifying a printed version of a pattern.  
There is a relatively easy way to test if your pattern is accessible. Your pdf reader needs to be able to ‘grab’ the text on the screen and change it into a preferred format. This format might be to hear it read out loud or to change the size and colour of the text and the background.  We’ll take a quick look at changing the appearance of the document to start with.

A quick and easy test is to see if you can change the size and colour of your text.  This is easy in Adobe Acrobat Reader – open your document and then click on Edit and then preferences and in the dialogue box that opens, select the Accessibility option on the left hand side (1) then tick the ‘replace document colours’ box (2) at the top.  Select high contrast, and then choose one of the options in the drop down menu, (3). 

Choosing the high contrast option in Adobe Acrobat Reader

It’s worth experimenting with the various options.  Your document should change like this.

Ordinary view on the left, and high contrast, yellow on black on the right.


You will also see that the headings have kept their colours. I will discuss the use of headings and why they are important in a later post.

Screen shot of a pdf with very poor contrast.

If your pdf has been constructed using a font that is not in fact black on white, you may get a result like this. If you look very carefully, there is some text on there. Not only does it show how it looks in high contrast, it indicates that the contrast on a white background is probably not sufficient either.

Similarly colours on images will not be converted.

High contrast option with not change for the chart image.

It is worth being able to provide a chart with inversed, or high contrast colours.  You can do this in MS paint.  Upload your image and then use the select tool to select the whole thing.  Right click on the selected area and choose the option – Inverse colours from the drop down menu – voila! 

Chart image with inverse colours.

If your document has not changed colour, as indicated on here, it maybe that the software you are using is not creating or saving it as text. As a general guideline, always write documents in MS Word or one of the free versions and when you are ready convert them to pdf.

This is the first of a number of posts on this and I’ll cover a range of options that will help to ensure your patterns will be accessible to the largest number of people.

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