Do We Need Dyslexic Friendly Fonts?


Dyslexic readers have a hard time with letters in the Latin script because they see letters differently than everyone else. Dyslexics, instead of seeing the actual letters themselves, see them as 3-dimensional objects in space. Since many of the 26 letters we use in the English alphabet have the same shapes, it becomes easy to confuse them. As a result, dyslexics confuse <m> for <n> and turn <p> into <d> without thinking about it, making reading difficult and time-consuming, especially on digital screens.

The use of new fonts, such as Dyslexie (as well as Open Dyslexic and a few others), can make the process much easier for dyslexic readers by slightly changing each letter to make them easier to recognize. Dyslexie, and the fonts like it, embolden capital letters and punctuation, emphasize the bottom of letters, allowing “gravity” to do the mental work and rotate the letters into their proper position, and increase the spacing between certain letter, making it easier for the brain to pick them apart.

When about 10% of the population is dyslexic, creating content that is easily readable to them can be a smart move for content-driven sites, leading not only to increased readership, but also increased loyalty amongst dyslexic—yet no less information-hungry—readers.

Design wise, Dyslexie does tend to look a tad typewriter-like, which may not fit most modern site designs. Finicky designers can still rejoice, however. A 2013 study by the Web Research Group of the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona on the dyslexic-friendliness of several standard fonts as well as the open source user-input-based Open Dyslexic found that fonts like Arial, Verdana, Courier were also easier to use for dyslexics.

So while specialized fonts exist, so long as the bulk of a site’s content isn’t written in italicized Times New Roman, most readers will be fine navigating their way through text.

The video below, although created specifically for the Dyslexie typeface, does a good job at demonstrating the reading issues faced by dyslexic readers, even animating the mental transformations that letters undertake for them. The font, for those interested, is available to license for just under €10 ($13.71 US) for private use, and €89 ($122.02 US) for business use. Other options, including Open Dyslexic, can be downloaded for free, but lack Dyslexie’s additional features, such as spacing and emboldened capitals, and tend to look slightly more comical.





Category: Typography