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Re: read regular - typeface for dyslexics

From: Pete Rainger - TechDis <concreteclouds@yahoo.co.uk>
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 2003 22:50:46 +0100
Message-ID: <12ff01c3968b$0ff4d530$9865fea9@TechdisRainger>
To: "info" <info@atutor.ca>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

The term "reading disability" is much less common in the UK. We generally refer to Dyslexia as one of many "specific learning difficulties". Not to mention the difficulties, which can sometime accompany dyslexia (or be on their own), such as Dyscalculia or Dyspraxia. Not too mention some thing usual like Hyperlexia. 

In principle I agree that we should be looking at the wide set of reading difficulties that people can have. Though I personally feel to call dyslexia a reading disability limits peoples understanding of the other characteristics like: 

- poor organisational skills and time management skills
- auditory and visual processing difficulties
- Problems with short term and working memory
- difficulties with sequencing and classification
- difficulties with automaticity

Greg raised a valid point that much of "dyslexics" reading difficulties relate to difficulties in phonological encoding. 
A good source of reading is Dr Margaret Snowling,  (1987) Dyslexia: A cognitive developmental perspective. Basil Backwell.

However, there is research into the visual sides of Dyslexia and accompanying symptoms like scotopic sensitivity - now known more as Meares-Irlen Syndrome and more recently "Asfedia" from TintaVision LTD (http://www.tintavision.com/) who have looked at the problem with dyslexia and believe dyslexic's often have a problem edge recognition.

Also research from Stein, Fowler and Lovegrove has shown that dyslexic children and adults tend to have a weakness in the magnocellular transient subsystem of the retina when attempting to read.

Here a few references.

Lovegrove, W (1991) "Spatial frequency processing in normal and dyslexic readers." in Visual Dyslexia vol 13 Stein, J (ed)

Stein, J & Fowler (1991) "Vision and language" in Dyslexia - Integrating theory and practice op cit.

There's plenty of research out there on the web to support the idea of "visual dyslexia".

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: info 
  To: Peter Rainger 
  Cc: Joe Clark ; WAI-IG 
  Sent: Friday, October 17, 2003 5:35 PM
  Subject: Re: read regular - typeface for dyslexics


  Is there scientific evidence published that suggests font variations improve reading for dyslexic readers? I'd like to see it, if someone can post a reference or two.

  Having spent many years studying the subject myself, I can tell you that dyslexia (or reading disability as it is now called among practioners) in the vast majority of cases is the failure or reduced ability to draw the phonological link between graphic and auditory forms of letters or words, not the ability to recognize letter forms. In a very small percentage of readers who have an orthographic type reading disability, letter forms may pose a problem, thought this form of reading disability is quite rare, and it is generally associated with the inability to automate recognition of letter patterns, like common syllables or affixes,  rather than individual letters. Phonological encoding problems (letter to sound correspondence) is the generally agreed root of reading disabilities, not letter recognition.

  I think addressing the readability of fonts is a general issues rather than one that affects dyslexic readers exclusively. Fonts that are difficult to read for dyslexics, are also difficult to read for normal readers.


  PS. Yes, I do have a reading disability myself.

  Peter Rainger wrote:


When considering readability for dyslexic learners the issues are a 
little more complicated than just typography.

To clarify when I said "simple fonts" I mean't non-fancy/fantasy fonts.

Joe states that "Simple design impedes letter recognition", this might 
be true for the bulk of the population, however I would assume this 
research did not look at the impact of visual processing difficulties 
on the results (a common dyslexic characteristic).

I have knocked this Flash animation together to demonstrate the visual 
effects for some dyslexic readers. 
(apologies it is merely a visual animation and not accessible - see 
bottom of email for alternative description). 

Even if a "simple font" does not provide the most optimum letter 
recognition accuracy there are other issues involved, including the 
readers preferences for a readable font. Complex fonts could can be 
less "friendly" than other fonts, which can put some dyslexics even off 
bothering to try to read something if it is not aesthetically pleasing.

This may not be the science of typography but in the end practitioner 
based experience shows that fonts like "comic sans ms" have been found 
to aid some dyslexics in reading whether it is actually a placebo 
effect from finding it more visually appearing we don't know - but who 
care if it helps. 

No one is suggesting any one font can solve a problem - but 
acknowledging the experiences of real dyslexic learners is important. I 
would always prefer to listen to a room full of those sharing their 
experiences than an "expert opinion".

Alternative description of animation.

The letters "c", "n" and "u" are very similar if you rotate them round 
their centre.

The letters "p" and "q" are similar if you image p reflected in a 
mirror, the same is also true for "b" and "d"

Quoting Joe Clark <joeclark@joeclark.org>:

  This does seem an interesting font type.
      "Outright failure," you mean?

    Dyslexia friendly fonts generally have a simple design that aids
    letter recognition
      Simple design impedes letter recognition. Bet you didn't know that.

    and this font design seems to have put a lot of
thought into avoiding the typical dyslexic reading traits of
    transposition, rotation and reflection.
      Yes, and for that reason, simplified letterforms *worsen* dyslexia.
Consider bicameral vs. unicameral _a_ and _g_. Which are really
easier to
read and harder to confuse?

    Other "simplistic" fonts include Comic Sans MS and Sassoon -
      whether or
    not the Typographers think they are "real fonts" or not.
      Of course they're "real" fonts. Comic Sans works beautifully in
Comic Chat, whose main instantiation these days is the comic strip
Jerkcity <http://jerkcity.com>, and works nauseatingly badly
else.  Sassoon (the Primary is best known) is a script font, which
hardly be considered a dyslexia aid or appliance.

    It certainly looks a bit better than Comic Sans,
      Blunt trauma to the eyes would work better than Comic Sans.


You're all entitled to your opinions. I'm just looking forward to
that are actually informed. "I like it" and "I can read it" are not


  Joe Clark  |  joeclark@joeclark.org
  Author, _Building Accessible Websites_
  <http://joeclark.org/access/> | <http://joeclark.org/book/>


Received on Sunday, 19 October 2003 17:51:14 UTC

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