“According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, up to 20% of the world’s population could be struggling with dyslexia”

That was a quote that caught my eye and to be honest I was astounded. We were told that my son had Dyslexic tendencies a few years ago, nothing major but it does mean that it takes a lot of effort for him to read, especially long paragraphs and he loses interest pretty quickly.

Dyslexia takes many forms but the idea that sufferers see words as an incomprehensible jumble of letters isn’t necessarily true and quite often it is more a case of the brain taking a little longer to change what it sees into sounds. For some people it can be numbers that are a struggle, but where there is a negative there is always a positive to balance it and dyslexics are proven to become some of the best entrepreneurs and engineers in the world. Dyslexia doesn’t mean you’re “thick” or “disabled” (two words that will get me shot down by the P.C. Police for using.) it just means your brain works in a different way and is better suited to other things. Albert Einstein (Legendary Theoretical Physicist), Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Space Scientist) are just a few.

So, how does this fit in with web and graphic design.  Well, If I said to you lets reduce the number of people who read your website or brochure by 20%, how would you feel? That’s a pretty big chunk of potential customers that you are missing out o

So, what areas should we put some extra thought into to help people who may be struggling with our designs.

Typography

This is probably a good starting point as it can have the greatest positive impact for dyslexic users!

Research shows that the “hook” part of serif fonts can makes them difficult to read, so it’s wise to go for san-serif where possible, but what if you are forced to use a serif font because of your existing brand guidelines. Well, all is not lost as reducing the spacing between letters and increasing the spacing between words is shown to help.

It may also be worth considering dyslexic specific fonts which can be found at OpenDyslexic and Dyslexie .

Whatever font you are using it is wise to avoid italics and underlining, instead use bold to emphasise text.

Don't get hooked on Serif fonts

Layout

Keeping your content simple and not too wordy is always a good idea and particularly in this instance. Long sentences and text that spans across the page are not easy for anyone to read, so keep your columns to a maximum of 80 characters wide. Also, avoiding high contrast colours is helpful to all of us, especially if you spend your day in front of a screen. Using an off-white screen background can help and maybe a dark grey font instead of hard black.

Keep it simple.

Tools

You can give users an element of control by providing them with readability tools. There are a variety of simple tools available that let users adjust font size, line height, and even mask certain areas of the screen.

For users who really struggle with reading, a text-to-audio option could also be beneficial. This can be one with an automated tool, or by providing an audio clip of someone reading the text areas in full.

Navigation

Finally, keep your navigation simple and always allow your users to find their way back to the homepage from wherever they are on your site. Again, it’s just good practice.

If you want to find out more about dyslexia the British Dyslexia Association is a good starting point…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

- Albert Einstein (Dyslexic)