Supporting people with visual impairments

With nearly 2 million visually impaired people in the UK user needs vary depending on the nature and severity of the visual impairment, and when the sight loss occurred. Increasing levels of sight loss generally lead to added challenges in accessing educational resources, the subjects being studied have a significant influence in determining the level and nature of these challenges.

Potential issues

  • Courses with a high visual content can be particularly challenging. This includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses. It is important that learners have support in their subject of choice as they have valuable contributions to make to these fields.
  • Learners with more severe visual impairments often need additional skills to access the curriculum. For example, they may need advanced braille or screenreader expertise. At all levels, they may need additional mobility and independence training so they can take part in fieldwork or work placements.
  • Websites, intranets, VLEs and eBook platforms must be designed and tested for accessibility. If not, they are likely to create barriers.
  • Visual resources can be of great benefit to many learners. Images, mindmaps, flow diagrams and videos can still be used, as long as they are annotated, described and transcribed appropriately. 

Key adjustments

  • Embed inclusive teaching practices.
  • Promote use of assistive technology to all.
  • Ensure key learning materials are accessible: accessible documents and presentations.
  • Consider how to deliver content in alternative formats.
  • Talk to the learner about their preferred way of accessing content and find out how compatible that is with your existing teaching resources or assessment methods. 
  • Provide access to resources in digital format in advance of lectures and seminars.
  • Try to anticipate which parts of your lesson may create conceptual barriers to people who, for example, have never seen a colour or whose experience of a tree is tactile not visual.

Designing for users of screen readers


  • describe images and provide transcripts for video 
  • follow a linear, logical layout 
  • structure content using HTML5 
  • build for keyboard use only 
  • write descriptive links and heading - for example, Contact us 


  • only show information in an image or video 
  • spread content all over a page 
  • rely on text size and placement for structure 
  • force mouse or screen use 
  • write uninformative links and heading - for example, Click here 

View designing for users of screen readers poster 

Designing for users with low vision


  • use good contrasts and a readable font size 
  • publish all information on web pages (HTML) 
  • use a combination of colour, shapes and text 
  • follow a linear, logical layout -and ensure text flows and is visible when text is magnified to 200% 
  • put buttons and notifications in context 


  • use low colour contrasts and small font size 
  • bury information in downloads 
  • only use colour to convey meaning 
  • spread content all over a page -and force user to scroll horizontally when text is magnified to 200% 
  • separate actions from their context 

View designing for users with low vision poster 

The above Do’s and Dont's contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. 


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