Small phone book type irks elderly

USELESS: Jim Hardwick used his magnifying glass on the new phone book but can make nothing of the smaller type.
USELESS: Jim Hardwick used his magnifying glass on the new phone book but can make nothing of the smaller type.

FREE magnifying glasses are being offered to people who find type in the new telephone books too small.

The south-west directory, distributed last week, is causing problems for those with less than 02/20 vision.

Among them are several Collie senior citizens who were at the Margaretta Wilson Centre last Friday.

The new residential listings are printed in five point type (down from 5.9).

Jim Hardwick said he found reading the old book difficult and the new one was “useless”.

He is an extreme example, having lost all sight in one eye and having only 10 per cent vision in the other, but other people at the lunch were also unhappy.

“I wouldn’t have a clue” he said, squinting through a magnifying glass at the 2012/13 directory. He could make out the large print in the advertisements but had no hope of deciphering the residential phone listings.

“I’ve got a notebook at home with all the numbers I use regularly,” he said.

He got people to write the numbers for him in large numerals.

“I used to be able to see an ant two miles away but it all just went overnight,” he lamented.

Dianna Butcher said she found the type “ridiculously small for older people.”

She predicted older people who did not own computers, to access phone numbers in larger type, would have major problems.

Pat Bertolini said she had not yet studied her new phone book. “But I will be having trouble for sure,” she remarked.

Sensis said people having difficulty with the reduced type size are not alone but are a minority.

The combined 2012-13 White Pages and Yellow Pages were reduced in size by 15 per cent to improve “useability”, said spokesman Peter Barclay.

“We found that people found the larger directory difficult to hold, that when people turned the pages it flopped a bit,” he said.

A new font (typeface) was also introduced. “It has higher legibility and the characters are a little bit clearer.”

It is smaller type is still easier to read, he maintained.

“It was a font they used in the US and it was very effective in directories so we explored it for Australia,” Mr Barclay said. “Only a small sub-section of people believe the type is too small,” he added.

Before the changes, Sensis ran focus groups including 30 per cent of people who needed prescription glasses. Most of the participants were aged 45 to 70.

“In every instance they preferred the more compact book because it was easier to use,'” he said.

More than 20 million telephone books are distributed across Australia every year and complaints represent “less than one per cent of that number”, Mr Barclay said.

Magnifying aids are available free of charge for anyone who needs help to read the books. Orders can be placed by ringing 1800 625 944 or by emailing