If suitable audio-visuals are not available, you can often make your own from low-cost local materials. Engage a local artist to draw pictures. Use pictures from magazines and other visuals to create your own posters or flip charts. Photocopy existing materials.
Keep in mind the following points when designing your own visual aids:
• use pictures whenever possible;
• when words and numerals must be used, use as few as possible;
• use graphs to present statistics and numerical information;
• use colours as often as possible. The use of colour can increase the effectiveness of a picture and emphasize key points. Colours can be used for coding, contrast, and improving visibility. Colour combinations or contrasts are important. The colours that attract attention best are red and blue;
• make the visual display simple and easy to understand. Use only key words and phrases, simple shapes and lines, and a few well-chosen colours. Do not crowd the display;
• for lettering, use special pens of the desired size, colour and boldness. You can often use commercial, pre-cut letters, lettering guides (stencils), and stick-on letters, or you may write free-hand. Be sure the letters are large enough and not crowded together so that those at the back of the room can read them;
• if a complex figure is necessary, the various elements should be introduced one by one. If you build up the picture step-by-step, it will be more easily understood and accepted. Flannel-boards and overhead projectors are very good for this purpose; for instance, a flannel-board can be used to teach how to obtain a balanced diet.
Learning from pictures may be difficult for people who have not had much formal schooling. People who have had some experience in learning from pictures will be able to understand and use pictures more easily than people who have never been to school.
When using visual aids of any type, it is important to make them agree with, and strengthen, the information you are teaching. The people in the drawings should look friendly and be dressed to look like the people in your community.
Make sure colours are appropriate to the culture - to be sure, ask trainees or people in the community what different colours mean to them. All technical points need to be correct when visual aids are adapted or new ones are produced. For example, the way in which a mother holds her baby when breast-feeding, or the way in which an injection is given should be shown accurately and correctly.
Some visual aids, for example, films and slides, may be expensive, and may require special equipment, like projectors, to be displayed. Simple visual aids are often just as useful and effective. Begin with what you have.
People often learn more from getting involved in making visual aids than they do from watching a film or a set of slides, especially if the film or set of slides shows pictures of places and people that are not familiar.
Demonstrations are a good way to involve participants. You can prepare effective demonstrations by creating your own materials from real-life objects. For example, have the participants bring: samples of foods for a nutrition demonstration; water, sugar, and salt for a demonstration on ORS; materials to demonstrate how to disinfect water.
A good example of how a training project involved the class in developing its own visual aids occurred in a training project in Mexico. The instructor involved the herbalist practitioners, who were learning how to use local herbal medicines, in making a handbook of drawings of local herbs. This project helped the trainees to learn to identify local herbs and to understand how the herbs could be used. At the end of the session, each trainee was given a copy of the book for his or her own use in identifying local herbs and using them to treat patients in communities.