On my journey to find accessible picture books for my vision-impaired little one, I have found myself in a negative spiral, only thinking about what I can’t find for them to read. I am changing tact! I am going to send positive vibes out into the universe by talking about some great low-vision accessible things I’ve found in the last week, in the hope that I can raise some awareness. Though the things I am going to talk about in this and subsequent posts weren’t specifically designed for visually-impaired kids (as far as I am aware), these things are working for us at the moment and I’m so happy to have found them and excited to celebrate them.
Bluey books from Ladybird
Not only is the TV show a huge hit with both my little ones and us, but the books are wonderful. They are a great example of how important licensed publishing is in the children’s book space – a perfect way to spark, develop and encourage a child’s life-long love of reading, by providing them a safe, known and fun space featuring characters they already love.
The care that has gone into the format choices pairs beautifully with the ethos of the show too. We are reading ‘Sleepytime’ every night at bedtime, and the fold-out flap pages pair so well with the story and the artwork. We have a board book (‘Grannies’) and a paperback picture book (‘Fruitbat’) and they are creased and battered, as all well-loved books should be.
In terms of accessibility, the text is a good size and the text colour is always in a contrasting colour from the background, which makes the text easily legible. Seems like an obvious function for a picture book, but I know from books I’ve worked on that aesthetic calls can be prioritised over visibility; I’ve made those same calls myself. For adults and those with no visual limitations, low contrast between the colour of the text and background (for example, black text on a navy or blue background) is not a problem, and often from a design perspective looks much better. But for those who are visually impaired, high contrast is crucial. Not only that but high contrast, legible text is very important for all little ones who are learning to read too; with all the additional focus and concentration it takes to master the skill of reading, larger text on a simple and plain background gives fewer distractions and helps them focus on reading.
These Bluey picture books have actually been exactly what we’ve needed over the last few weeks to help our little one, who wants to read at bedtime, but due to eye strain and tiredness, struggles to focus in the evening. The clean, large and simple colour vector artwork helps with this too. It’s bright, inviting, fun and, most importantly, easy for them to focus on. The images are large enough so they can see all the details important for the story, rather than missing parts and getting frustrated.
Awareness of the different ways people react and perceive the world is increasing all the time, and making entertainment and books accessible has never been more important. Not only to make all people feel included and important, but also for profit margins. The more people are able to engage with content and then want to buy products for a license they love, the larger the consumer base. I can’t help but wonder if part of Bluey’s huge success is due to how inclusive it is – for adults and children, girls and boys, and people with various accessibility needs.
Gemma Wilkinson-Lowe is Roy's Second Boy's First Girl - AKA first grandchild of her generation. She is a mother to two toddlers (otherwise known as Roy's Second Boy's First Girl's First Boy and Second Boy).
Gemma is an editor and writer of children's books, with a particular passion for making reading and stories fun, enjoyable and accessible for all children of all abilities. You can also read other interesting blogs from her at Gemma Writes Stuff.