Lists are a great way to organize information and present it in a succinct and easy to read format. Using lists can help reduce the amount of text on a page and increases white space. This can help all students to read and absorb information – but it can be especially helpful for students with low vision and some learning and cognitive disabilities. However, for students using screen readers or other reading software, improperly formatted lists can be frustrating and unusable. Fortunately, formatting lists is easy – all word processing programs have a function that will properly format lists for you with a click of a button.
There are two types of lists:
- Ordered – ordered lists are used if there is a hierarchy or order to list items. A recipe with the steps for preparation or a list ranking your top 5 vacation spots (in order of preference) would be good examples. These lists items generally have descending letters or numbers (1, 2, 3 /A, B, C… ) preceding each item.
- Unordered: unordered lists are used if the items in the list have no particular order or ranking attached. An inventory of all of the things in your junk drawer or roster of people in your book club would be examples of unordered lists. These lists usually have a bullet icon (⬤,⬛,◈,⬧ etc..) preceding each item.
Things to keep in mind
- Never create your list manually – use the tools available in your word processing program to create and format your lists. A screen reader will read out every tab, space and Asterix (*) you enter, making it very hard to follow the flow of information and never telling the reader that it is a list.
- Choose the correct type of list. If order is important, use the ordered list, if not use the unordered list. Using the wrong type of list can be confusing and send unintended messages about the relative importance of the items in that list.
Tips and Tricks
- You can usually find toggle buttons at the top of the page with other formatting options such as font and text size which easily let you make a list.
- The icon for the ordered list generally has three horizontal lines with 123 vertically in front of them.
- The unordered list icon is usually three horizontal lines with a solid circle in front of each one.