[AAACE-NLA] health literacy for aging eyes
Kaizen ESL Program
kaizen_esl at literacynet.org
Sat Mar 6 17:08:28 EST 2004
The below announcement may be of interest to some of you. Even if you are
not directly interested in attending, you may find the discussion of the
challenges involved in making medicine labels more accessible to people with
aging eyes of some help in your work with seniors and others experiencing
vision loss in your programs. Everyone who works with seniors should be
aware that, on average, one in twelve people over 65 experiences significant
vision loss, and many become legally blind. Legally blind is defined as
having 20/200 (a person who is legally blind sees at 20 feet what a person
with full vision sees at 200 feet), or a field-of-view limited to 20
degrees, or some other vision limitation (such as severe problems focusing,
or seeing details that are close) that interfere with the performance of
daily life activities. Services and specific consideration for this
population are both sparse. And, poor people in this country are more
likely to experience vision loss as they age than those with better family
incomes because of difficulty accessing prompt and appropriate health care,
as well as other environmental disadvantages. Moreover, people living in
poor countries are ten times more likely to become legally blind than those
in rich countries. So, those working with immigrants and refugees should be
aware that many more of their students than they might be aware of will have
vision problems. Many times, immigrant and refugee adult students will be
too ashamed to tell the teacher, or be afraid of being ridiculed by their
classmates, or be afraid of being asked to leave, etc. Therefore, ESL
teachers need to be especially concerned with being aware of some of the
best ways to make print more usable for everyone and with providing
accessible print even without being explicitly asked by those among their
students who have experienced vision loss, in order to promote those
students' literacy as part of learning the new language.
KAIZEN PROGRAM for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
810-A Hiawatha Place South
Seattle, WA 98144
phone: (206) 784-5619
email: kaizen_esl at literacynet.org
"Visual Design for an Aging Population" conference March 19, 2004
By Liam Otten
Washington University Record online
anouncement of a conference to be held at the Washington University Medical
School called "Graphical Design for the Aging Eye".
Graphic design can be a matter of life and death.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 40
percent of Americans age 65 and over use five or more different medications
week, making unintended drug interactions a major contributor to an
annual 180,000 fatal or life-threatening adverse drug reactions.
Yet drug labeling is, informationally speaking, a kind of typographical Wild
West, said Ken Botnick, professor of visual communications in the School of
"Drug companies are required to divulge certain types of information, but
there are no requirements in terms of how accessible that information is
Botnick said. "Typically, decisions about the way information is
organized--the hierarchy of presentation, the size and clarity of type --
Medical information design is just one of the issues to be explored as part
of "Visual Design for an Aging Population," a national symposium March 19 at
the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus. Botnick organized
conference, which is co-sponsored by the School of Art and the Center for
The symposium will examine the often-underappreciated impact of aging on
visual perception and the related implications for designers, advertisers,
and Web-based publishers and others catering to older populations.
Participants include noted graphic and information designers as well as
architects, gerontologists and psychologists from around the country.
By the time one reaches age 60, shrinking of the pupil reduces the amount of
light reaching photoreceptors by as much as three-fourths. This causes
particularly "cool" colors, such as blues, greens and purples -- to appear
dimmer and less distinct.
At the same time, hardening of the lens hampers one's ability to focus on
fine details, such as small print, and to distinguish slight gradations of
(i.e., light-on-light, dark-on-dark).
Moreover, the eye's ability to adjust to differing levels of light and
brightness dramatically decreases, making glare, from slickly printed pages
plastic packaging, difficult to see past. Such problems are only compounded
age-related diseases like glaucoma and cataracts.
Such issues have a special urgency today, as the U.S. population grows
increasingly older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of
people 65 and
older increased 11-fold during the past century, from about 3 million in
to more than 33 million in 1994.
Over the next 40 years, that number will climb to more than 80 million.
Moreover, by 2020, the number of Americans 85 and older will triple, with
in nine baby boomers expected to live to at least 90. Of all humans who ever
lived to 65, half are living right now.
Still, "99 out of 100 Web sites are designed by young people with young
eyes," Botnick said. "Even designers who work with seniors specifically in
often make incorrect assumptions about what their audience can or wants to
For example, designers targeting older populations typically choose
"old-fashioned" looking, serif typeface.
However, it turns out that older eyes have difficulty picking up fine detail
on ornate typefaces, particularly in Web applications.
Seniors actually prefer cleaner, modern-looking, sans-serif designs, which
offer less visual clutter.
"Large print, high contrast, low glare -- these are very simple points, but
they're seldom part of the way we actually practice graphic design," Botnick
said. "In fact, a lot of conventional design wisdom, in terms of color
so forth, actually flies in the face of usability for older people.
"On the surface, that might seem to imply that one would have to compromise
aesthetically to design for older users," Botnick added. "But that's the
challenge. Baby boomers have invested a lot of money in homes, cars, clothes
other beautifully designed things. They are visually sophisticated in ways
demand a certain level of attention.
"The physical changes they're going through will demand yet another level of
Joseph F. Coughlin, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's new
AgeLab, will present the symposium's keynote address.
Conference registration is $100. Student discounts are available.
For more information or to register, call 935-6500 or go online to
More information about the AAACE-NLA