rob waller

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2.8% or 40%: how many people need large print?

A quote from the Arts Council's Get a Plan accessibility website:
"Did you know…40% of the population cannot easily read print if the type size is below 12 pt?"

That would mean 40% of the population couldn't read a newspaper, let alone the instructions on a packet of pills, or the small print on their car insurance.

Or the tests they use to measure literacy... wait a minute - could this explain the apparently low levels of literacy in the UK?

Well, only if the figure was true. The website owner is trying to trace the origin for me, but in the meantime here is a quote from an RNIB report:
 'The prevalence in those aged 16+ of at least S9 (difficulty reading ordinary newsprint) was 2.8%'  1998/99 Survey of the Needs and Lifestyles of Visually Impaired Adults. (RNIB/ONS 2000) quoted in Tate et al, The prevalence of visual impairment in the UK (RNIB 2005).

Newsprint is usually about 9pt. All figures for visual impairment get significantly worse for people aged 75+. In this survey only 14% of them, not 40%, reported problems reading newsprint.


  1. Anonymous12:52 am

    The 40% figure may prove to be too high, but you are also giving insufficient attention to the modifier "easily". Most readers over 40 years of age will read slower, less easily, at 10 pt or less.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous, - a fair point about the 'easily'. Being well over 40 myself I am aware that my eyes have got less flexible over time. But I still want to know what the evidence is and the extent of the problem. '40%' implies a scientific basis and I'd like to know where it comes from. 'Most readers over 40' 'slower, less easily' are also rather approximate.


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