Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fonts and Dyslexia

Fonts and Dyslexia – an article from iansyst Ltd

Dyslexia can mean that a person has a sensitivity to particular typefaces, both in print and on screen. It is always good to understand a person's particular preferences and dislikes when it comes to font selection and this should be examined with each individual.

Whatever materials you are creating, it is good to consider whether they are going to be accessible to as broad an audience as possible.

Many dyslexic and non-dyslexic people find that the readability of a piece of text varies greatly depending upon the font (type face or type style) used.

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.

Read Regular - Font
Recently Natascha Frensch, a graphic designer at the Royal College of Art, has designed a font (Read Regular) specifically for dyslexic readers, taking into account the issues discussed above.
There are examples of Read Regular on her web site at www.readregular.com and the children’s publisher Chrysalis is now using it for two-thirds of the 150 children’s titles it brings out every year.

Lexia Readable
Has also been designed specifically for dyslexia and is actually available. You can download it from www.k-type.com/ free for individual use. It has developed quite a bit over the last few months, although it still has some minor irregularities.

It tries to avoid some possible dyslexic confusions (eg b-d) by using different shapes, and is broadly based on Comic Sans, see below. Please let us know what you think of it.

Tiresias
This font has been designed for people with Visual Impairment. Originally produced for subtitles and signs there is now a screen version Tiresias PC font. Tiresias is now free to download. It is good for legibility, but doesn’t address the issue of dyslexic confusions.

Sassoon
The font Sassoon, is often recommended for dyslexia, but was actually designed to assist children in 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.

Myriad Pro
Myriad pro was designed by Adobe and it has a clean sans serif aesthetic making it suitable for people with dyslexia.

Web based Fonts
Verdana is a very popular and clear font used by many on websites but arguably better is Trebuchet MS. It has short descenders but reasonably long ascenders, a small body size and generous line spacing. We find this font suits many readers both dyslexic and non-dyslexic.

Write Friendly Text

To test your sensitivity to these fonts, choose one from the ones suggetsed, print out some text in 12 points and check them out for yourself. You can also ask your friends and family about their choices and preferences.

Apart from the font selection, think carefully about colour and printing on coloured paper. There are a number of good and bad combinations that you should be awareof.

For more advice and guidance, follow the advice in the BDA’s Dyslexia Friendly Style Guide and we wish you more friendly writing for the future!

For more information on Fonts and Typefaces check out my Copy writing block post on the subject.

5 comments:

  1. This is a great summary. There is also aphont:
    http://www.aph.org/products/aphont.html

    and Dyslexie
    http://www.studiostudio.nl/en/project-dyslexie/

    Sadly I have yet to find a good webfont that is under a creative commons license. Seems lots of folks have risen to the challenge of making one but not many have really wanted to make it a that widely distributed.

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  2. Hi I've recently created a font called Gill Dyslexic that is designed to help people with dyslexia. It's not creative commons but it is only $2.

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  3. This is free:
    http://www.biancoeneroedizioni.com/shop/pages.aspx?id=26

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  4. http://dyslexicfonts.com/ Also has an italics, bold, and bold italics font. Check it out! :)

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  5. Thanks for the information. I'll update my info. Ken

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