Communication Compliance for Accessibility and Dyslexia

Even though it has been 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many companies are just now getting around to making their documents and websites accessible. We have discussed what is needed to make documents accessible for the visually impaired, but we also need to consider those with cognitive difficulties like dyslexia. It is estimated that as many as 17% of the world population has dyslexia.

 

People with dyslexia have difficulty identifying words and letters and matching them up with sounds. The most common problems include letter swapping, mirroring, and melting together, but different people with dyslexia can experience their documents differently.

Many design decisions that make documents more readable for the visually impaired also help make them more readable for people with dyslexia. These include:

  • Use larger point sizes for text (12-15 point)

  • Avoid using all capitals

  • Set headings 20% larger than body copy and make them bold

  • Left align text 

  • Limit lines to 45-75 characters

  • Use light backgrounds and maintain good contrast between background and text

  • Avoid printing on glossy paper

Consideration should also be given to the fonts you select. There is no magic font to cure dyslexia, and opinions on the "best" fonts vary. Sans Serif fonts are generally more readable, including Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Myriad Pro, Century Gothic and Comic Sans (!). I know many of you think Comic Sans is unprofessional, but the variation in character heights make each character more recognizable. You should also consider the following features in your font choices:

  • Spacing: Tightly kerned fonts can cause characters to run together and look like other letters - yarn can look like yam, and click may look like dick

  • Uniqueness of characters: It may be harder to distinguish between the characters if the lowercase l looks identical to an uppercase I or a number 1, or if b, d, p, and q are mirror images of each other

  • X-height: Higher x-height and larger openings make characters more readable

  • Ascenders and Descenders: Longer ascenders and descenders make characters more recognizable

There are a few fonts that have been designed specifically for people with dyslexia. These include:

  • Dyslexie: designed by Christian Boer, who is dyslexic himself. Dyslexie has unique character shapes with heavier bottoms to help keep the characters from being inverted.

  • OpenDyslexic: designed by Alberado Gonzalez based on DejaVu Sans. It is an optional font on some e-readers, and also has heavier strokes at the bottoms of the characters.

  • Sylexiad: designed by Robert Hillier from the dyslexic point of view for adult dyslexic readers

  • Read Regular: designed by Natascha French with distinct shapes to prevent mirroring.

  • Lexie Readable: specifically designed for dyslexia, broadly based on Comic Sans

I hope you gained some insight into how to make your communications more useable for people with dyslexia. If you need help making your documents accessible, contact Dr. Fontz at COPI using the Contact Form below.

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