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  • norahowley

Accessible Patterns

In my non-knitting life, I work in education and currently a portion of my work involves looking at the systems of support for students with a variety of impairments, including visual. At the same time, I am aging (aren’t we all) and my eyes are not quite as sharp as they once were.

These things, coupled with the issues with Ravelry accessibility, took me down the path of thinking about pattern accessibility. I need to say here, that the brilliant Woolly Wormhead was a big inspiration for me in thinking about what I could and should be trying to do. I also realized that as a new designer, I have the opportunity to start the way I meant to go on, trying to make my patterns visually accessible.

Based on Woolly's recommendation from Woolly Wormhead, I took a short, recorded course taught by Renee Van Hoy, Writing Accessible Patterns the Blind and Print Challenged. She includes in the price of the course, the review of one pattern.

I chose to rework my Falling Leaves Hat, and as of today, it can be bought on Payhip or Ravelry in a low-vision accessible format. With Rene’s help, I was also able to create it in such a way that, it should, work with screen readers.

I won’t give away all of Rene’s tips, but a couple that were easy to implement were to use a sans serif font (which I already did) and 24-point type. More time consuming was writing out the colorwork chart. Stitch Mastery will produce a text version of your chart, but it needs editing to be fully accessible.

[This sent me down a rabbit hole of wondering when charts became standard for commercial colorwork patterns. A discussion on Twitter did not really lead to anything conclusive. I would love to hear if you know anything about it.]

But back to the present, the final step was to knit the hat again, from the written instructions. This allowed me to check that they were correct. The picture at the top, shows the hat in Rauma Finnullgarn.

Of course, I would love it if this meant that the pattern got more sales. But even that is not the case, I know this is the "right" thing to do and it's not that much extra work. If I was starting with a new pattern, I would work with a test knitter from the get go, so that testing gets done both with the standard format and the low-vision formant. My next step is to go into my Reversals collection, break it into four individual patterns and create low-vision accessible format versions.

i am not claiming expertise, at all. But if you are thinking about doing this and want to know more about my experience please let me know. And take Rene's wokshop.

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