Dyslexia Friendly Fonts.

This article appeared in our Summer Newsletter and each of the fonts was used to show it’s ‘look’ and ‘character’.  Sadly this is not reproduced here, but I felt it would be useful to  see the results of the survey to inform those producing script for dyslexics to read.

Many dyslexic and non-dyslexic people find that the readability of a piece of text varies depending upon the font (type face or type style) used.

Sans-serif fonts are generally preferred by dyslexic people because Serif fonts, with their ‘ticks’ and ‘tails’ at the end of most strokes tend to obscure the shapes of letters e.g. Times New Roman.

The BDA technology website says that designers of fonts found that Dyslexic readers favoured these features in a font:

  • Obvious ascenders and descenders (the ‘stems’ on letters like p and b).  If ascenders and descenders are too short the shape of the word is more difficult to identify and can make reading slower and less accurate.
  • b and d; p and q distinguished, not mirror images.
  • Rounded ‘g’ as in handwriting. Most like rounded ‘a’ too.
  • Letter-spacing, e.g. r, n together rn should not look like m.

Our particular interest in fonts started when we found out about a font called Gill Dyslexia. It can be found at: http://www.pixelscript.net/gilldyslexic.  It is £12.70 for the single users licence (although the price is first shown in dollars it gives the sum in pounds if you proceed to pay.) Sue contacted Pixelscript and was given the files for Gill dyslexia font so that it could be compared to other fonts.

We decided to run a survey on the HDA website to gain the opinions of dyslexic and non dyslexic readers on 5 different fonts. We chose:

A. Arial. This was chosen because it is the font that has been used for the newsletter in the past. It has a rounded g. The ascenders and descenders are reasonable. R and n can be seen but not as clearly as for Gill font or Comic Sans. (rm)

B. Century Gothic.  This was chosen because the ‘a’ is rounded as well as the ‘g’. The letters are spaced wider than Arial although descenders are less obvious. R and n are not clear. (rn)

C. Verdana. This is a font that is used extensively for web sites. It has a rounded ‘g’. The ascenders and descenders are reasonable. R and n look like m.(rn)

D. Gill dyslexic. This font is designed to help dyslexics by reducing the symmetry in the letters and by adding weight to the base line. It was the only font tested where the b/d p/q are not mirror images. It does not have a rounded a or g. The tall letters are accentuated. The letters r and n together do not look like m. (rn)

E. Comic Sans. Modelled on fonts in children’s comics. It has a rounded a and g and the best definition of descenders for the fonts tested. Also r and n together do not look like m. (rn)

People completing the survey were asked to judge the fonts on appearance and ease and speed of reading then to indicate their order of preference for all five fonts. The black fonts were displayed on a white background which we knew would be a bad combination for those with visual stress / Irlen Syndrome. This was deliberate as we wanted to know the effect of the various fonts.

The results.  (Sample size 100 people).

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Skipped
Arial

37

33

14

7

7

2

Century Gothic

12

8

35

23

19

 
Verdana

29

35

20

10

4

 
Gill Dyslexic

10

8

12

17

49

 
Comic Sans

14

12

15

40

17

 

Arial was the most popular font overall, and Verdana was also highly judged. It was the most highly rated for making the eyes ‘more relaxed’.

44% of respondents found Arial or Verdana fastest to read while 26% said that the font made no difference to speed.

 

Comic Sans and Century Gothic tended to be favoured by those under 19. Two people said that they like Sassoon (a commercial font that looks like primary school writing). Three people mentioned their preference for Calibri.

 

Gill dyslexic was the least favourite font overall. However we were interested in the 10 people who made it their first choice. 4 of them were dyslexic and /or had visual stress. I know 2 of these voters and they were extremely enthusiastic about it.

 

31% of the respondents were dyslexic and 19% experienced visual stress. The majority of these people favoured Arial or Verdana. Comments included: ‘The best fonts are neat and tidy. If the writing is wavy then white overlaps the parts that stick out and the words begin to sizzle.’ ‘I find that fancy writing such as D moves’

Other comments emphasise the usefulness of aspects other than font: ‘The use of double line spacing and coloured backgrounds help more than the typeface used’.

It is beneficial to know your own, and other individual’s, particular preferences when it comes to font selection. It is worth exploring the various options. There are 4 further dyslexia fonts on the BDA technology website: Lexia Readable and Open-Dyslexic which are free and Dyslexie and Sylexiad which are commercial.

We acknowledge that 100 people responding is not a huge sample. In retrospect it may also have been fairer if we had randomised the order in which the fonts were presented. However we feel that the results of the survey are fairly conclusive in terms of the fonts we should choose for the newsletter. We will continue to use Arial or Verdana with line spacing and a coloured background.

 

 

Jacky Gurney and Sue Kerrigan.

 

http://bdatech.org/what-technology/typefaces-for-dyslexia/#lexia

http://www.pixelscript.net/gilldyslexic

http://dyslexiauntied.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/fonts-and-dyslexia.html

http://www.sassoonfont.co.uk/index.html