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Re: read regular - typeface for dyslexics

From: Ian Litterick <Ianl@dyslexic.com>
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 00:58:45 -0000
Message-ID: <2DA1FBCA4767814E8A5CB7C399D252606CA68B@ash.dyslexic.com>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

I've read the correspondence to date with interest. My company, iANSYST,
specialises in technology for dyslexia and runs the website
www.dyslexic.com (from the UK).

I was at the launch of ReadRegular a week ago and hope that the
designer, Natascha French, will let us sell it when she has decided how
to commercialise it.

Meanwhile I'll make the following rather disjointed comments on the
thread to date.

Natascha has designed the font as a student project. She is not a
professional type designer, but a graphic designer. The font has, as yet
no bold (or italic, which may be less of a problem as received wisdom is
that dyslexic people find italic hard to read). I have not yet had the
chance to use it. I do not know how acceptable automatic bold will be.
She has used automatic hinting. Will that be good enough?

ReadRegular is competing with other professionally designed fonts like
Trebuchet and Verdana. Even if it's working along the right lines, it is
possible that the actual execution is not good enough so that the older
fonts are actually more legible, even for dyslexic people. I would want
to test ReadRegular against these established "legible" fonts. 

One way that I would propose to carry out such testing would be to use a
methodology based on (but developed from) that of Bob Hoffman's Type
Font > Objective Experiment at http://edtechfm.sdsu.edu/bhoffman/type/.
This would show something statistically about legibility but prove
little about what is legible for any individual. Bob's methodology at
present (or when I did the experiment) arguably tests pattern
recognition rather than legibility, and also has some presentation
issues. But he and I think that we have identified some improvements.

FWIW our take on fonts for dyslexia is at
http://www.dyslexic.com/articles.php?artid=11. The first paragraph is
now wrong!

I think that ReadRegular is working along the right lines. Natascha has
addressed a number of the items in my personal dyslexia-font-wish-list
(built up over the last 10 years), albeit not perhaps as boldly as I
would like. Her distinctions are fairly subtle, and I am not sure that
they will help in more extreme cases, eg at small sizes. However, there
is a conflict, IMHO, between a pleasant font and a dyslexia friendly
one. Traditional type design is about aesthetics as much as (often more
than) legibility. It therefore tends to favour symmetry and repetition
of shapes. Which leads to confusion if your letters all share the same
shapes and curves. I suspect that a maximally legible font might well be
ugly. ReadRegular certainly hasn't gone that far, and may be right not

As Pete Rainger has partly suggested there are two separate issues of
legibility with "dyslexia", and they may not call for the same solution.
I'm not going to get into discussions about defining dyslexia - my
organisation's attitude is that if something that we can provide helps
then we don't really care what the condition is properly called. (and we
keep more friends that way - some people get very heated in this country
over Dyslexia V Specific Learning Difficulties - SpLD).

However a high proportion of our customers have Meares/Irlen syndrome -
(see http://www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/overlays as well as the
Tintavision site that Pete Rainger mentioned). I think that simplicity
and "cleanness" are what they need. Others have the classic dyslexic
symptoms of misreading easily confused letters - eg b and d. I'm not
sure that simplicity is so important here, although many may also have
Meares/Irlen anyway. There's still a lot to learn about reading

Natascha's web site is certainly not accessible. I mentioned a couple of
the issues to her. It is a pity that the Royal College of Arts didn't
give her some guidance, because it's clearly a site that would benefit
from being properly accessible. It just goes to emphasise how easy it
still is for the uninformed to produce inaccessible sites. There's still
a long way to go before accessibility is built in to the thinking of the
people who design the tools that the lay web-site builder uses, much
less the thinking of those who use them.

Ian Litterick


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Received on Sunday, 26 October 2003 20:02:46 UTC

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