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Are you shouting at me?

I was sitting in on a virtual meeting with Anne the other day when I observed the artful diffusion of a difficult issue.

Earlier that day Anne told me how she was annoyed every time she received an email from this individual because she felt like this person, let's call her BF, was shouting the message at her. Apparently, every email Anne received from BF was written in 18-point type, AND the text was blue.

I have often heard Anne say, "No one can remedy a problem they are not aware of." I was pretty sure Anne was planning to address this issue and found myself holding my breath waiting to see what would happen.

BF typically arrived at meetings a little early so Anne also arrived at the meeting early in hopes of a moment alone with her. Here's how the conversation went:

Anne opened with a grateful greeting, "Good morning BF, I am so glad you are here early! Now you and I have a few minutes to get to know each other a bit better!" She went on, "I have a question I have been meaning to ask you. I noticed that you use a large font in your emails, and the text is blue. I am wondering what the reason is?"

Notice Anne did not immediately jump in and express her frustration, she gave BF the benefit of the doubt, but I was still holding my breath not knowing what response to expect.

BF laughed and answered, "Thank you for asking. I do it for accessibility. Not for me, but for other people who are visually challenged. And for those of us who have a hard time reading emails, especially on our mobile phones. The blue tells you that I am answering a previous email; if it is an email I initiate, the type is black."

"Oh, I see, so you are not shouting at me," replied Anne.

"No! No! I am not yelling at you. This is my personal crusade here, I am trying to influence this organization to be more inclusive, but I am the only one doing it." said BF.

Anne thought for a moment and then she said, "You know, a notation on your email would help us all to understand your intentions.

"We are a team of about 15 people working together on this one project, and if we had known, we could all have supported you with your crusade, BF.

"I would want to see everyone include a message under their signature to explain the use of a large font. Together, we could start a movement!"

Wow! Did you see that? We went from a situation where Anne was annoyed by something she didn't understand, to a collaboration on how to start a movement!

Immediately after that call, Anne did a Google search and found the Canadian National Institute for the Blind Foundation's (CNIB Foundation's) Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines which confirmed that the ideal point size for ease of readability is between 12 and18-point, depending on the font chosen. The most readable fonts were identified as Arial and Verdana.

Anne went into her email setup, which already used Arial font, and increased the size from 11-point to 14-point. She also added this notation under her signature, to explain the reason for the larger font.

Please Note: It has been brought to my attention that it is easier for everyone to read larger fonts on mobile devices. I have enlarged the font in my email messages to accommodate everyone!

So, when you receive an email from Anne, you will know why she is now using a 14-point size in Arial font.

The Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines reveal a total of 10 adjustments we can all make to ensure that our messages are easy to read for everyone.

I hope you will take a few minutes to review the guidelines and, if you choose to join this movement, please remember to include an explanation so your readers will understand that you are NOT shouting at them!

Making our messages clear and accessible to everyone is inclusive and respectful of the range of diversity among people. Abilities and disabilities are aspects of diversity, and not all disabilities are visible.

1 Comment

Janette Wittwer
Janette Wittwer
Mar 25, 2021

I love this, and yes I prefer 12 pt at a minimum as then I don't have to go hunting for reading glasses. ;-)

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