Having a diagnosis of dyslexia is an indication of a range of strengths and weaknesses experienced in a unique way for any given individual. It is estimated that 10 to 30% of people with dyslexia will experience some kind of visual distortion of text that could include the ‘swirling of words’, words that move around, and distortions related to having a bright white background behind the words.
Everyone’s experience is unique and so there is no single ‘fix’ for these distortions however there are strategies that can help especially if one is needing to spend lots of time reading text.
One strategy is to use what are often referred to as ‘Dyslexic Friendly Fonts’, these are fonts that have been specifically designed to alleviate aspects of visual stress by bringing in design elements that affect symmetry, spacing and shape.
This article will outline and demonstrate the most common fonts that are believed to be beneficial to some people with these challenges. Note that there is no guarantee that using a ‘Dyslexic Friendly Font’ will work for you and if this is the case then a strategy involving assistive technology such as using a screen reader or text to speech technology may be more appropriate.
Serif fonts, with their ‘ticks’ and ‘tails’ at the end of most strokes (as found in traditional print fonts such as Georgia or Times New Roman), tend to obscure the shapes of letters, so sans-serif fonts are generally preferred. Many dyslexic people also find it easier to read a font that looks similar to hand writing as they are familiar with this style, and some teachers prefer them. However these types of fonts can lead to confusion with some letter combinations, such as “oa” and “oo”; “rn” and “m”.
The size of the ascenders and descenders of letters (the ‘stems’ on letters like p and b) is also important as many dyslexic readers rely on recalling the visual shape of a word due to poor phonological awareness. If ascenders and descenders are too short the shape of the word is more difficult to identify and can make reading slower and less accurate.
Developed in 2003 as Read Regular by Natascha Frensch and now adopted by the publishing house, Zwijsen, Zwijsen Dyslexiefont has been designed to alleviate visual stress by making every character in the font different. For example, rather than the letter ‘b’ being a mirror image of the letter ‘d’ , each letter is individually designed, stripping out unnecessary detail and accentuating gaps in letters so that they do not appear closed up.
Has also been designed specifically for dyslexia. You can download it from www.k-type.com/ free for individual use.
The font tries to reduce the confusion that can often be experienced with letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’. The font is broadly based on the Comic Sans font. The text that you are reading now is in Lexie Readable font. What do you think of it?
A sans-serif font which maintains the basic design of Monotype 20th Century, but has been modified to ensure satisfactory output from modern digital systems. The design is influenced by the geometric style sans-serif faces which were popular during the 1920s and 1930s.
Calibri is a modern sans-serif typeface with subtle roundings on stems and corners. Its proportions allow high impact in tightly set lines of big and small text alike. Calibri was included with Windows Vista and Office 2007 and is now the default typeface for Microsoft Office.
This section has been written with Calibri.
Calibri is recommended in the British Dyslexia Association Style Guide.
This font is often recommended for dyslexia, but was actually designed for early reading. Also, it is quite expensive and can be bought through Adrian Williams Design and elsewhere on the web. Letter shapes are similar to those that schools use to teach handwriting, and ascenders and descenders are exaggerated to emphasise word shapes.[JH3]
A modern typeface designed by Adobe. We have begun to use Myriad Pro in our designed materials and in part on this dyslexic.com site. Myriad Pro has a clean sans-serif aesthetic making it suitable for people with dyslexia.[JH4]
Trebuchet MS has short descenders but reasonably long ascenders, a small body size and generous line spacing. We find this font suits many readers.
This section has been written with the Trebuchet font and this font is also recommended by the British Dyslexia Association.
Comic Sans MS
Comic Sans is one of the more readable of the commonly-available Windows fonts, and is recognised by the British Dyslexia Association in it’s style guide. Whilst is it thought to be effective with reducing visual stress somefind it too bold, too childish or too informal. Reading it now in this section, what do you think?
A number of fonts have been commissioned by Microsoft with the aim of making on-screen reading easier and are included in many of their packages. While some have a fault common in many modern fonts in that they have large bodies and short descenders and ascenders, which makes the letters harder to tell apart, they are very professionally worked, so they are as clear and clean as possible at all sizes and in all media.
Although there are thousands of fonts freely available on the web, most of them are fancy display fonts totally unsuited for blocks of text. We are therefore currently obliged to fall back on the fonts distributed with Windows and Mac OS for our style sheet.
Our other two choices are Geneva for the Mac and Arial for older Windows systems.
Read more about fonts in the British Dyslexia Association’s article ‘Creating a dyslexia friendly workplace’.