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RE: specialised fonts Re: read regular - typeface for dyslexics

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2003 12:42:34 -0400
To: "Joe Clark" <joeclark@joeclark.org>, "WAI-IG" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Once again a pompous self promoting response from Mr. Clark.

> When you say "available," you evidently meant "Can I freely download this
> expensive intellectual property because I don't feel like paying for it?"

Did I say free anywhere?  What makes you presume that I would not be
interested in purchasing this or any other font?  Where is your "evidence"?
Get off your high horse...

> It would help to spell the name right.

As for the spelling, I took it from a previous posting (Chaals has already
apologized for the mis-spelling), and in the interest of enlightenment and
personal research I wanted to know more.  Unlike you Joe (who apparently
knows it all) some of us are still striving to learn about subjects in this
complex field of Universal Accessibility.

As far as "web accessibility" is concerned however, the issue is not even
"if" I have said font installed on my machine, but rather, is the font
widely enough distributed (and/or recommended or endorsed by real experts)
that we as developers should be employing it in our development?  For while
"style" has a place in development (and a large one at that) if this
particular font does provide a benefit to a select but significant user base
then perhaps we should be thinking of using it.

I submit the following:

	body {font-family: Tiresias, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;}

Following the rules of CSS, if the "first" font is not present, the user
agent will attempt to use the second, or third or fourth, etc.  In this
circumstance, as a developer I have "allowed" for the usage of a font
purported to be of aid to dyslexics (who presumably have bought and
installed this aid on their computers) and yet for the mainstream population
(no offence intended) they will fall back to the second, freely available
and (dare I say) universally installed font, or at least to a sans-serif
font on GUI based user agents.

Joe also claims that "...*All* the fonts allegedly designed to allegedly
alleviate a disability have been outright failures...".  Joe, can you point
us to research which supports your claim, or should we just take your word
for it (since you know it all)?  As the saying goes, "Put up or shut up".
Your article on Television captioning and the usage of font faces is
specific to Television... to me it is a bit of a leap to presume that it
also applies to web development per se.  One link to your site, plus another
to a Blog with four comments (one being your own) is hardly academic or

> See, inter alia,
> <http://joeclark.org/design/print/readingthetube.html>
> <http://typographi.ca/000715.php>

As for how dyslexic "experts" approach this subject, I turned to no less
than the British Dyslexia Association, who actually provide a means on their
site for users to change style sheets and modify font face and size.
(http://www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk/main/view/index.asp)  Since Tiresias was
developed in part with the assistance (and funding) of the RNIB I would
suspect that the British Dyslexia Association would look to employ this font
on their site.  Nope, they don't.  Don't know what it means exactly, but
worth noting.  I then had a nice telephone conversation with the Canadian
Dyslexia Association (conveniently located here in Ottawa -
http://www.dyslexiacentre.ca/) and enquired about typography and font faces
there.  The answer I received is that it is truly dependant on the end
user... some prefer Verdana or other sans-serif fonts, while others prefer
Times (or Times New Roman).  In *most* cases however I was told that a
slightly larger type face is preferred (another case for scalable fonts) and
that lower contrast is also suggested (i.e. rather than a white background a
tan or cream colour, and rather than black type something in another
contrasting colour).  A quick surf around to sites pertaining to dyslexia
confirms that the background colour comment in particular should be
considered... most were cream (#FFFFCC).

Finally, off to the source: http://www.tiresias.org/fonts/.  Interestingly
(or sadly?), they do not employ their own font in their web development:

<style TYPE="text/css">
	p, ul { text-align: left}
	.links {  font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:
10pt; line-height: 14pt}
	.header {  font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:
12pt; font-style: normal; line-height: 16pt; font-weight: bold}
	.text {  font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:
11pt; font-style: normal; line-height: 14pt; font-weight: normal; color:
	.sub_heading {  font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 18pt; font-style: normal; line-height: normal; font-weight: bold;
color: #330066}

And so, at this time, I suspect that referencing Tiresias in my (our?)
development would not produce any tangible benefit... not because the font
may or may not address specific needs, but rather because even the "experts"
seem unaware or unwilling to use this font in any production, thus not
encouraging the intended audience of any benefit.  It would be interesting
to hear from Bitstream on how popular this font is or isn't...

> Remember, the fact that your computer has a Font menu and that you can
> read have no bearing whatsoever on your own capacity to use type
> effectively. You are much more likely to do harm and make mistakes than
> anything else The same goes double if you think you can just whip up a
> font that "solves" some kind of accessibility "problem."
> You can remedy this problem by beginning to learn about typography. You'll
> be production-ready approximately ten years later.

Finally Joe, I am not interested (nor do I suspect are most list members) of
becoming typography experts... we are seeking here to develop web sites
which are as accessible as possible and that address as many needs as
possible within the constraints of current technology.  I always thought
this forum was for sharing information, not pontification and self
aggrandizement.  Too bad you don't seem to get that...

John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America)
Received on Friday, 17 October 2003 12:42:37 UTC

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