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U.S. Department of Health and Health Services
Quick Guide to Health Literacy and Older Adults
Illustrative logo for Visual Impairment chapter
Visual Impairment

Many older adults have problems with vision. As many as two-thirds of adults with vision problems are older than 65.1 When you create graphics, text, or other visuals, consider the needs of older audiences.

What You Can Do

Starter Tips

Make information easy to see.

  • Effective materials have a simple design with sharp contrast between text and background.
  • Use a large font size, preferably 16- or 18-point.
  • Try 1-inch margins and at least 1 1/2 blank spaces between lines of text.
  • When using a table, make it simple and easy to follow.

Design Web sites that are senior friendly.

  • Web sites for seniors require readable text presented in a carefully organized format.
  • Font type and size, spacing, justification, color, and backgrounds all need to be planned with older audiences in mind.

Consider using Braille and audio-taped information whenever necessary.

  • Braille and audiotape are necessary for some adults with low vision or blindness.

Be sensitive to individual needs.

  • Degrees of impairment vary, as do the ways people overcome such challenges. Ask older adults with vision problems if they want assistance with these issues and, if so, how you can help.
  • It may help to research vision aids, such as magnifiers, so that you can understand how they help people.

References for this table: 2,3


The following resources can help you as you design materials and Web sites to meet the needs of older adults with visual impairment.

  • Making Your Web Site Senior Friendly is an informative checklist Web designers can use while creating online material for older adults. This checklist, published by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, is available at
  • Making Text Legible: Designing for People with Partial Sight. These guidelines provide good examples of effective legibility choices for anyone. It is available by the Lighthouse International at EXIT Disclaimer
  • Effective Color Contrast: Designing for People with Partial Sight and Color Deficiencies. These guidelines provide specific examples of effective color contrast. It is available from Lighthouse International at EXIT Disclaimer
  • In Other Words...When Vision Is an Issue...Communicating With Patients Who Are Visually Impaired is a concise article that offers practical tips for designing materials for people with visual challenges. You can find it at EXIT Disclaimer
  • Making Web Sites More Accessible for Users Who Are Older and/or Have a Disability includes background information on visual disabilities and offers strategies for improving accessibility. It is available at EXIT Disclaimer


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2000. Healthy People 2010. 28: Vision and Hearing. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. Osborne H. Health Literacy Consulting. In Other Words…When Vision Is an Issue…Communicating With Patients Who Are Visually Impaired. Originally published in the Boston Globe's On Call magazine. October 2000.
  3. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. Making Your Web site Senior Friendly. Available at Accessed July 2007.
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