Creating Accessible Handouts for Biblical Language Scholars Who Are Blind

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

When providing handouts for scholars who are blind, you may be preparing for two possibilities:

  • You may be sharing a document with the scholar in electronic format.
  • The document may be imported into braille transcription software for use with a braille embosser.

Some of the same tips apply to preparation for both scenarios. The person who will read your document directly using a screen reader and braille display will rely on the same accessibility features that braille transcription software uses to interpret the format of the document.

Use a Unicode font and input method.

This is the most important guideline to follow. If you type your text using a non-Unicode input method and font, it may appear in the right language to you; but it will be transcribed and interpreted as English by the transcription software and screen reader and the reader will see only the keystrokes that you entered..

Use styles to format your text.

use headings (not headers) to provide hierarchical structure

Use paragraph style to provide formatting, etc. Do not press hard return at the ends of lines to force new lines. Do not press tab or multiple spaces to indent new paragraphs.

Reformat tables, e.g.

Columns are reformatted as follows:

Column 1: column 2; column 3; column 4… for columns that are intended to be read across
Row 1: row 2; row 3; row 4… for tables that are intended to be read down

The above reformatting method assumes that the first cell in the column is intended as a header. If this is not the case and the table does not indicate relationships between columns, another style of reformatting may be needed, e.g. simply writing out a description of the table.

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