Dyslexia

A few day’s ago I w.w.w.andered and came across some fonts that were claiming to tackle dyslexia. I’m not going to mention them, but I was just a little bit horrified. I would like to get more information from (font)designers –or people with that disability– to see if I can humbly make a difference.

[updated 27 nov. 2007 :: just to get a global idea]

dyslex_1.gif

40 Comments

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40 responses to “Dyslexia

  1. Dyslexic.com says they use Myriad, after they mention an ugly-but-maybe-it-works font that they don’t actually have.

    Maybe a good choice would be the new US highway sign typeface, Clearview. Hmm, I see that a complete set of ClearviewHwy is $795. I don’t think I need it that badly. 🙂

    Keith Bates’s Lexia has the virtue of being free, at least for the basic version. How well it works, I don’t know.

    My own problem is that I read too well and so, to read normally, I need illegible typefaces, such as Goudy Text at six points, or Courier at any size. 🙂

  2. LOL… That’s my problem also 🙂

    Thanks for the useful tips and links! I think I’ll also contact some schools to get more information. I’m really intrigued by this phenomenon.

  3. Dyslexia comes in so many different forms affecting a wide range of abilities. I have it. I have trouble writing down what I’m thinking. Ie, I miss out letters, and words. It looks like bad spelling and grammar, but really, I knew what I was trying to say I just couldn’t get it down. My dyslexia doesn’t affect my reading ability, but I know people who have serious trouble with it and definitely prefer reading a serif font rather than sans serif, but that could be put down to personal preference. Their reasoning’s are that they prefer being able to see the ending points to each letter shape.

  4. Hi will – Thanks for letting me know. In the meantime I’ve read more information on this and there are indeed very many forms of dyslexia… I’m not sure how or if I can design a font which will help people with this disability…

  5. Tad

    IMHO your Delicious font would be an excellent starter place for Dyslexia. Unique character shapes help for a start. Check out ReadRegular for AFAIK the only font designed specifically with Dyslexia in mind. It reminded me of Delicious.

    Sadly ReadRegular is not available for download free or commercially yet (I would be happy to pay for it). I am going to try Delicious out on a few people and see how it goes…

  6. Tad, that would be really great. Please keep me posted!

    I’ve checked Read Regular, but I myself find it difficult to see what this could do for dyslectic people apart from the spacing and the odd shaped ‘a’, ‘d’, ‘g’ and ‘Q’.

  7. Tad

    re: ReadRegular at http://www.readregular.com/

    Actually, the odd shaped Q has been the thing that people so far have most disliked about RR

    The ‘a’ and the ‘g’ go down well, because they match the way that most people (children especially) actually write ‘a’ and ‘g’. The idea with b,d,p,q is to give them all unique shapes, so you can’t translate any of them in to any other of them. also the open ‘a’ has different curves to ‘o’ to help distinguish. Note that although ‘c’ and ‘o’ have very similar shapes, ‘c’ is an extremely open letter to make it harder to “melt” into an ‘o’. Also ‘e’ is given a unique curve so it doesn’t become mixed up with ‘c’ or ‘o’. In general counters are very large and the x-height is very generous.

    I felt Delicious may be good because many of these features already exist. Letter spacing is great, open letter shapes, unique shapes. My reservations about it include the ‘a’, ‘g’ and ‘e’ (‘a’ and ‘g’ are double looped, and the counter of ‘e’ is perhaps a bit small..). Additionally, I really like the numbers, but I wonder if having uppercase numbers available as you have in ‘Anivers’ would be helpful for some readers.

    I am still waiting for feedback from some of my ‘experts’ (!) and will post back when received.

  8. Great! The expert feedback –combined with your elaborate info in the post above– will surely get me going. Nice thought btw: using Delicious as a base for this. 🙂

    Many thanks!

  9. Dan

    Hi, i am dyslexic and have found the Delicious font by far the easiest to read. I just wanted to say thanks for making it free and keep up the good work! Best wishes Dan

    P.s. You’re making a difference!

  10. Dan, thanks very much for commenting and the kind words! Are there ways -in your opinion- to improve Delicious to make reading (for you) yet more easy?

  11. The font Lexia apparently works because of the open P and the closed B in small case, this should make it easier to distinguish the difference between the two.

    http://www.k-type.com/fontlexia.html

    however, i dislike the use of Comic Sans as an inspiration. Not only because schools (at least here in holland) tend to use Comic sans for just about everything, but the i believe a font like Optima would be a better starting point.

    the ever so slight serif makes it more legible, and the Sans serif nature of the font allows it to be printed larger, which is often an advantage.

    at least that is what I believe.

    Paul

  12. Paul I absolutely agree with you on your dislike of using Comic Sans. Optima has indeed something going for it. I’m curious if dyslexic people experience this the same way … I would like to know if a serif of semi-serif reads easier than a sans serif.

  13. I have been busy with a font for dyslexia and hopefully Discaculia.

    If you’re interested I would like to compare sketches notes etc. Though i must warn you… I am a graphics designer with a love for typography, though I do lack a LOT of experience.

    Paul

  14. I would like to… ygm.

  15. Dan

    I have had a change now to really get used to using Delicious. I think what I really like about it is the way the letters fit together in words, if that makes sense. Many fonts, to me, just make words look like strings of shapes.

    The letters that I feel could be improved are the lower case letters g and t and upper case I.
    The reason I find the lower case g is not perfect for me is that it seems to sit to high on the base line (this may be because I draw large tails with the ‘o’ of the g on the line), also I prefer the an open tail.
    The horizontal line on the t is also rather thin, thus making it look fairly similar to l.
    The upper-case I I find could also be improved, I would prefer to have the horizontal lines on the top and bottom. This is only because I study engineering so use many letters in equations, often that I do not fully understand, and so letters must be very clear.

    I hope this doesn’t make me sound too critical, I am very appreciative. The font is far better than other fonts, especially Comic Sans, which I hate! The “improvements” I have listed above, in my mind are very specific to me; either because of my subject or hand writing style, so may not be relevant for improving your font for a broader more conventional end-user group.

    Again many thanks.

    Dan

  16. Dan thanks for your imput. I’ll take everything in consideration. It’s absolutely not too critical 🙂 I really like the fact that Delicious fits the letters together in words!

  17. Hello. I came across your site tonight (not sure how anymore, but I’m here!) — and noticed your interest in becoming involved toward designing typefaces for people with this disability.

    As a suggestion, I’d urge you to consult with a learning disabilities teacher who is studied or works with children with dyslexia. My mother was a pioneering teacher in learning disabilities (when the program was starting out), and I’ve always shared a great concern toward disabilities in my own design and typography work, perhaps as a result of that upbringing.

    I consult her constantly on various projects, and typography is no exception. I urge you to do this, because I feel that too many designers — although the intentions are wonderful — tend to not consult somebody with such knowledge, which doesn’t help to solve various problems associated.

    One of the key issues I see, for instance — is the constant leaning toward sans-serif style faces vs. serif style faces by designers looking to do this kind of project. This is a great concern to me, because there are various sources — along with consulting several teachers in the field — who point-out that dyslexic children have a tendency to read better with standard serif text as opposed to sans-serif. There are several theories as to why this might be happening — but I strongly urge you to become involved in this way, and to read read read as much as you can on the topic of reading disabilities.

  18. Welcome Daniel. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I know I eventualy have to consult the right people and test the fonts properly. For now I’m gathering as much valuable information as I can … hence my request … so I can begin this project mid 2008.

    Regarding Serif / Sans Serif: I find it hard to make a statement about that. It’s not that I absolutely want to make a sans font for this … but so much depends on how a font is drawn. For Dan (a few entries above) Delicious makes a lot of sense.

  19. Tad

    Just to add another note to this.
    I heard back from the teacher I asked to take a look and her comments actually match much of what Dan mentioned – in particular she pointed out the iIl! conundrum though she did say that the 1 was a good shape and also she worried that the space given to lowercase t was a little narrow, which again I think mirrors what Dan said above. She did also mention the transformation possibilities for q/b, which is not good, and suggested a flick on the q may be one way to deal with this, or a more distinct counter shape between them.
    One thing she mentioned specifically was that the centre lines of the uppercase letters like ABEFGHPR are all very close to the actual middle of the height of the letters which is very good for people with reading difficulties as it helps define the letter shapes (also, for that matter, people with VI would appreciate that sort of detail.)
    I hope this helps a bit.
    Re: the comic sans comments, I can only agree – it is used and recommended far too much, the main reason being, however, that it comes free with windows and is a ‘child friendly’ font. Sassoon is quite common in the UK since it comes with a piece of software available in many primary schools, and this is a often a much better, clearer and more ‘whole school’ appropriate typeface, but being designed for early readers, many aspects of reading difficulty avoidance seem to have been left out, which in my mind seems counter-intuitive!
    Perhaps one problem with many existing dyslexia friendly fonts is their perceived unsuitability for ‘professional’ situations. This would be a good place to aim a new font, i.e. a new professional font that just happens to be designed to be clearly legible for those with reading difficulties.

  20. Tad, thanks very much for bringin’ back some feedback! With this and older input I’ve made a rough ‘sketch’ (see (top)image) based on Delicious. I couldn’t agree with you more on that the font has to be professional.

  21. As the parent of a dyslexic child, and a dyslexia-remediator-in-training, i’ve never really understood the utility of a “dyslexia-friendly typeface”. It seems to be a concept popular in the U.K. and Europe, but not particularly of interest in the U.S. and Canada. This may be because of the differences in emphasis in approach. The International Dyslexia Association (“International” here meaning mostly the U.S. & Canada) have the following statement:

    http://www.interdys.org/FAQLearnToRead.htm

    “If children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training in Kindergarten and 1st grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until 3rd grade.

    It is never too late for individuals with dyslexia to learn to read, process and express information more efficiently. Research shows that programs utilizing multisensory structured language techniques can help children and adults learn to read.”

    Early in the learning-to-read process, a uniform and non-ambiguous typeface is helpful, but not mandatory. By “non-ambiguous” I mean, for example, a face that does not merely rotate the “b” shape to render “d” “p” and “q”, and in which “c” is not an “o” with bits erased.

    However, by the 6th year of schooling in the U.S. (grade 5, more or less, assuming kindergarten) students are uniformly expected to read not only “text controlled” works (that is, written work purchased and supplied by the school) but other written works — encyclopedias, dictionaries, novels, newspapers and so on.

    If you are really interested in the subject of dyslexia, print, and reading, I highly recommend reading all three of these books:

    Sally Shaywitz , Overcoming Dyslexia ISBN-13: 978-0091813208 (UK edition I believe)

    Louisa Cook Moats, Speech to Print ISBN-13: 978-1557663870 (UK edition I believe)

    Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid SBN-13: 978-1840468670 (UK edition I believe)

  22. Liz, thanks for keeping our/my feet on the ground.

    I would like to comment but I guess I first have to read my way through things …

    Thanks for the literature links.

  23. Mary

    Comic Sans is one of the fonts recommended by the British Dyslexia Association. It may be overused, but I don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand.

  24. pezimo

    felicitaciones! me encantan las fuentes que diseñaste!

  25. Axel

    Helvetica is a very clear font for people with dyslexia too.

  26. exljbris

    @ Mary & Axel: That could be. Both fonts are widely known and very familiar to people. That’s also a reason why it can contribute to readability …

  27. lindsay

    i like the read regular font.
    and when you google “fonts” & “dyslexia,” it pops up everywhere as something that we should all check out.

    so, i contacted the person who designed it… and it’s not available.

    arghhh!!!!

  28. Lucidus

    Thanks for considering your fonts!

    I am a person who has shape dyslexia and I teach school now.

    pbdq 52 5S 2S 3E 35 68 69 1l 49. These were difficult for me.

    I tend to use Verdana set to at least 10 with slight character expansion and Kerning for fonts over 8 pt turned on. This takes care of the character spacing and word spacing issues. I turn off auto-hyphenation and NEVER use align to Justify just to Left.

    Something that has not been mentioned, but it is very hard for high school readers to read columns more than a few inches wide and the margins need to be empty or they are distracting. Many students have worked so hard at ignoring images in the perceived margin areas of texts that they cannot see them even when they are specifically looking for them on the page. Many prefer reading magazines because the columns are not as wide and the pictures are in predictable places. Less fatigue.

    I was never told I had a reading problem. I liked to read so I learned to overcome it. I learned to underline words that I was having difficulty with so I could orient the pbdq to the line and to the word. A pencil or other straight edge helped when I couldn’t use underlining. Phonics is useless but learning word syllables as they put them in the American Heritage Dictionary really helped me to get word shapes and their various forms into a clearer view. I could make sense of Un-clear-ly, for example, because I could see and learn to recognize the three parts.

    Trebuchet, Helvitica, Arial, Comic Sans, and verdana are the ones I tend to work with, but adjust with Kerning and spacing. When I am writing computer programs or I am using something that has lots of numbers in it, I like to use Comic Sans because there is no doubt what each number and letter is.

    Some interesting stuff you should know about shape dyslectics. We can often manipulate shapes in 3D, rotate images, note mirrors and non-mirrors. People who have overcome their shape dyslexia with techniques are able to spot CO 8B differences on those IQ tests and many can do those foldup or next in a series shapes very easily… so look out for children and adults who appear to have difficulty or avoid reading or writing but can easily play video games or find those hidden objects, etc. For little folks in avoidance… Flash cards are great for learning word shapes but only if they can lay them out and compare and contrast the word shapes when they study. Playing games with fonts on the computer helps them to identify the key features of letters regardless of font.

    My vote is for Verdana and Comic Sans because they work on PCs and Macs. But mostly it is about spacing…

    Thanks for your time. Hope this helps people who are doing the search…
    Lucidus

  29. Thank you very much for your valuable input Lucidus.

    The project still has my attention, but I think I will continue with somewhere next year.

  30. Anisha

    hey I am working with children in India…… I have been wondering whether to stick to the ‘safe’ comic sans and looking for feedback from others on different fonts…….I agree with you Lucidus that comic sans is readily available nd spaced sensibly. Also a is represented as most students write which is why we have made it a kind of standard…..Am excited to hear about new developments…….Keep the good working going on….

  31. Terry Ball

    Because dyslexics have such a difficult time deciphering text, and they all seem to have their own idiosyncracies (some like this font, some like that; this lot need a pastel background, while that lot prefer grey, etc), surely the font designers who seek to create the “holy grail” of “legible” type faces and the pressure groups that have lobbied for DDA legislation would have been better advised spending their time and their resources in actually training dyslexics to set the preferences of a web browser so that web pages are rendered according to their particular needs, perhaps even training them to create their own style sheets that can be used to override the styling of any particular web site that is not to their liking. Think of it as a way of helping them to help themselves …

  32. I work as a typesetter for a publisher who specialises in books for people with dyslexia and other reading problems. We find discussions like this one helpful when we are trying to chose a font for a particular book. However I find it encouraging that people who build fonts are begining to appreciate the problems further down the line amongst the end users.

    For Example – Sassoon is a useful font but it is VERY expensive to use. by the time the author, the typesetter, the proof reader and the printer have all bought the font family the cost of producing the book has gone up significantly even when spread across several books. This makes the cost of the book to the end user much more than it really should be. A free font like Delicious can make a big contribution towards keeping the cost of specialist books down so that everyone can afford them. I will be evaluating Delicious in the near future.

    One problem we do have is that there are very few readable fonts that contain diacriticals and mathematical symbols (especially fractions). This severly restricts the fonts we can use when typesetting maths books and books that teach reading skills and pronuciation. To the best of my knowledge there is no one readable font that contains both that would be readily available to all sections of the publishing industry and, most importantly, available on most school computers. Is this something that a group like this one could look at and do something about? if so you would find that the community that deals with dyslexia and related problems would be very grateful indeed.

  33. Bob, for one book a font like Sassoon might not be very cost effective, but what if you spread the cost over multiple/other editions? And can’t the author and the printer do with a pdf?

  34. Ceci Ann

    Here is a project, in Paraguay, a font specially designed for children with dyslexia between 6 to 8 years old.

    Unfortunately, the design process article is not in english, but I can tell you that he works
    mainly around the words shapes (bouma shapes).

    http://www.tercermundo.ws/jaguatelevisor/sarakanda-una-tipografia-para-ninos-y-ninas-con-dislexia

  35. Derek

    I don’t know if this is still current (I’m seeing an unstyled blog). However, I thought I should post about the Sylexiad font by Dr Robert Hillier of Norwich University College of Arts. It has both a sans and a serif version developed through testing on dyslexic readers. It’s available but hard to find – the opposite of Read Regular! See font and thesis at http://www.robsfonts.com/sylexhome.html

    By the way, I take on board what Liz said, above. There’s much more to it than (possible) dyslexic-‘friendly’ fonts. But most fonts were either designed before this issue was identified or don’t take account of it (or are based on manuscripts from centuries past when reading was for an elite, not the masses). I think increasing the choice of fonts that dyslexics can set in their browser, along with awareness, can only be a good thing.

  36. roely

    font Dyslexie (instead of Dyslexia)
    free downloads for schools and students

    and more tips for layouts regarding dyslexia (in Dutch)
    http://www.studiostudio.nl/

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