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RE: Font accessibility

From: Gian Wild <gian@accessibilityoz.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2018 01:00:55 +0000
To: Wayne Dick <wayneedick@gmail.com>, "mm14kl@student.ocadu.ca" <mm14kl@student.ocadu.ca>
CC: Olaf Drümmer <olaflist@callassoftware.com>, "gijs@anysurfer.be" <gijs@anysurfer.be>, W3C WAI ig <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <SYAPR01MB29440103FBBFEDE2EFE2ED05CF750@SYAPR01MB2944.ausprd01.prod.outlook.com>
Thanks Wayne!


From: Wayne Dick <wayneedick@gmail.com>
Sent: 22 June 2018 5:21 AM
To: mm14kl@student.ocadu.ca
Cc: Olaf Drümmer <olaflist@callassoftware.com>; gijs@anysurfer.be; W3C WAI ig <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>; Gian Wild <gian@accessibilityoz.com>
Subject: Re: Font accessibility

Hi All,
There is a great deal known about legibility of fonts. First and most important is habit. Tinker the earliest researcher in legibility noted that people performed best on fonts that were familiar. That was in his time, and serif was perceived better. He also predicted that sans-serif could replace serif given its increasing use. That being said, and the prevalence of sans-serif on the web, I would guess that people perceive sans-serif better these days.

Legibility is not a usability issue. It is a property of perception a psychophysical and measurable quantity. Legibility is measured by reading speed on text that is not challenging to comprehend. This test isolates all but the perception of letters and words. There are many factors that improve this perception. Letter spacing (until the integrity of words is lost), and line spacing are well known entities.

Within the space of sans-serif certain conflict pairs are important. These are pairs of letters and numbers that can be mistaken for each other. The predominant pairs are, the lower case letter el (l), the upper case letter I and the digit 1. Arial and Helvetica are terrible on this issue. The letter O and the digit 0 get confused. The digit 5 and the letter S can be confused. When picking a sans serif font check these first. Serif fonts generally do not have this problem.

Arditi actually put serifs onto a sans-serif font and measured the legibility. There was no difference.

Interchangeability: The width of fonts varies about 1 point for non-decorative fonts. That is about 0.1em difference. I wrote a program that measured this across all Google fonts. Times New Roman and Tahoma have nearly identical space requirements. Verdana is an outlier. It requires 1.2 times the space of Times New Roman or Tahoma.

That is all I know.


On Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 7:21 AM Mohsen Mahjoobnia <mm14kl@student.ocadu.ca<mailto:mm14kl@student.ocadu.ca>> wrote:
AS Olaf greatly mentioned its not one or the other. If I may add, when consulting designers, would advice to provide alternative formats and option to user to change the: font, color contrast size and etc. I believe its about giving equal opportunities vs. making accessibility based on common or assumed user edge case. Give alternatives!

That being said, when it comes to print and graphic design we need to be more mindful (specially when we can't provide alternatives to our users), CNIB has great suggestions:

"Avoid complicated or decorative fonts. Choose standard fonts with easily recognizable upper and lower case characters. Arial and Verdana are good choices." CNIB <http://www.cnib.ca/en/services/resources/Clearprint/Documents/CNIB%20Clear%20Print%20Guide.pdf> <http://www.cnib.ca/en/services/resources/Clearprint/Documents/CNIB%20Clear%20Print%20Guide.pdf>

Choosing an Accessible Font<http://www.reciteme.com/common/ckeditor/filemanager/userfiles/Accessible_Font_PDF-2.pdf> <http://www.reciteme.com/common/ckeditor/filemanager/userfiles/Accessible_Font_PDF-2.pdf >

Accessible Graphic Design<https://www.rgd.ca/database/files/library/RGD_AccessAbility_Handbook.pdf>

WebAim<https://webaim.org/techniques/fonts/> Font Readability <https://webaim.org/techniques/fonts/ >

Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces?



On Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 6:24 AM, Olaf Drümmer <olaflist@callassoftware.com<mailto:olaflist@callassoftware.com>> wrote:
It's inappropriate to make this topic (choice of font versus other typographical aspects) an either or question.  The fact that aspect A may matter more than aspect B is no justification to not care about aspect B.

One aspect that is very often ignroed when it should not: context.

Needs of a low vision person are different  form needs of a dyslexic person. Even for people with low vision there are different types of low vision that may benefit from different (possibly mutually exclusive) aspects (I know of people who benefit from low contrast whereas others prefer as much contrast as they can get). Not a single of these variations is wrong or  irrelevant. Nonetheless it is necessary to find middle ground for a form of presentation (e.g. for print, which is obviosuly difficult to reformat; for electronic devices adjusting presentation is also often limited) that works best for most.

There are many other context aspects: type of text, situation in which text is viewed, relevance of text (e.g. emergency sign versus pharmaceutical label versus novel), apparatus used for viewing (screen, printout, with or without magnifying glass,...),  lighting, quiet environment versus 'rough' environment, ...

Also, make sure to understand that the Latin script is different from other scripts, whether CJK, Vietnames, Thai, Myanmar, ...  or whatever. There are probably more people by default using non-Latin scripts than people using Latin script... Rules may have to vary between scripts.


On 21. Jun 2018, at 11:28, Gijs Veyfeyken <gijs@anysurfer.be<mailto:gijs@anysurfer.be>> wrote:


Related: I've searched for an answer to the serif versus sans-serif font question in the past.
There is no conclusive evidence from user research that I could find indicating one is better (easier to read) then the other.
In conclusion, I pretty much agree with this article:

Kind regards,


On 21 Jun 2018, at 11:12, Olaf Drümmer <olaflist@callassoftware.com<mailto:olaflist@callassoftware.com>> wrote:

Some fonts are more legible than others. This has been addressed by various standards, for example in the field of ergonomics and also in the context of regulation for labels on food or pharmaceutical items.

That much said - legibility as such is a usability aspect not an accessibility aspect. Accessibility rules though could build on top of usability aspects and require a heighten degree of usability.

It is important to understand that legibility rules depends a lot on context: viewing distance, amount of text, purpose of the information conveyed, etc. A long text benefits from a different font than the four letters 'STOP' on a stop sign.


On 21. Jun 2018, at 10:58, Gian Wild <gian@accessibilityoz.com<mailto:gian@accessibilityoz.com>> wrote:


Does anyone have some research or evidence about the accessibility of different fonts? We have come across a very thin-lined font and we have been asked for proof that it is harder to read than normal font.


(Sorry for cross-posting)

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