Not all fonts are created equal and some typefaces may be more or less accessible for readers with visual impairments, visual processing disorders and dyslexia. That’s because letters differ in their design, including their height, weight and shape. Additional factors such as the spacing between letters, words and lines on a page, text size, text colour and background can all impact on readability.
What is dyslexia?
What makes a font dyslexia friendly?
By making each letter unique, designers reduce the chance that one letter will be mistaken for the other during reading. This works especially well for mirror letters like b/d and p/q. It also helps for the letter l and the number 1, f/t and a/o/c. Sometimes a dyslexic reader will confuse letter combinations such as rn for the single letter m. By changing the curve of the arch and adjusting the r’s width, designers can reduce the likelihood that this error will occur.
Fonts for dyslexic students
Designed by Christian Boer who is himself dyslexic, this font was created in the Netherlands as part of a thesis project.
Alberado Gonzalez based this font on DejaVu Sans. It has since been used in several eye-tracking studies.
This is a free option with good differentiation between the letters b and d.
A common font used by children’s book publishers, it was designed at the Royal Art College.
This font is for people with visual impairment and hasn’t been tested specifically for dyslexic readers.
While highly recommended, Sassoon must be purchased and can be expensive.
Additional options include Barrington Stoke, Myriad Pro, which is a very clean font and Century Gothic, which has geometric letters that can make reading easier in the same way as text written in all capital letters does.
What the research says
Tips for parents and teachers
- Install new fonts and try them out. Many of these fonts, including Dyslexie, OpenDyslexic and Lexia Readable are open source and free to download.
- Print classroom materials in dyslexia friendly fonts. You may wish to use a dyslexia-friendly font for all of your classroom materials, particularly if the other students in your classroom react positively to it.
- Consider typeface when selecting print-only books. Different publishers may have a preference for certain typefaces. Consider font in addition to elements like vocabulary and story length.
- Adjust line spacing and colour on worksheets. Use 1.5 line spacing and print worksheets on different coloured paper to prevent students with specific learning difficulties from losing their place. You may also try using bullets, bolding and other text features that organize information and make important sections stand out.
- Teach students how to make adjustments to word-processors. Have dyslexic students adjust their word processor until they find settings that make reading easier for them. Teaching them to make these adjustments themselves will mean they can use the same configuration at home and at school.
- Look for accessibility options on websites. Some websites, such as Wikipedia, will allow you to change the font used throughout the pages to make text accessible to more readers. You may also find other custom presentation features. Have a look at the Accessibility Me tab at the top right corner of this website and see which settings work best for you.
- Download a browser extension. There are certain browser extensions that will allow you to change the text you are reading on various webpages to a dyslexia-friendly format.