Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a spectrum of differences in the way the brain and visual receptors work and not a disability.  It has long been known that a non-white background helps prevent a fuzziness leading to confusion with letters (such as b & d and p & q.)  But actually, the wrong background can lead to large amounts of text not being absorbed correctly.  A large part of Dyslexia is limited working memory, spoken and written text just becomes blah blah blah after a while and not committed to short or long term memory.  This is not a binary condition, it varies but with 10% of the population being on the spectrum then it is 10% of the potential website visitors that should be given consideration to.  What can we do to help?

  • Choose a good background colour, consider a non-white but light background. A cream or light pastel is recommended.
  • Choose a larger font and font style as the default.  The good news is that it is the same advice as for the visually impaired.  And is crucial if you decide to leave your background white.
  • Use bold text instead of underlining or italics to help highlight points within the text.
  • Do not use block capitals.
  • Make sure headings are in a large font, are bold and in lowercase.
  • The text should be left justified within columns that are not narrow.
  • Space out the content of your pages
  • Keep sentences short and punchy within small paragraphs, make them direct and active and not passive.
  • Avoid starting sentences at the end of a line.
  • Have a good line spacing.
  • Use numbering and bullet points instead of long continuous
  • Avoid abbreviations
  • Add in flow charts, pictograms and other graphics to help emphasise

Seems a lot, but consider this: What works for dyslexic visitors also works for non-dyslexic visitors, but not the other way around.  A lot of the above should have already been considered in your design, SEO and accessibility practice.  But overall you need to make sure that the information is “absorbed” as this makes your website effective and results in business.  The opposite could result in your website being discarded as useful and even negative reviews.

Font Effects on Dyslexic readers

Read the great page by readRegular.com to understand how some of your visitors are affected by unsuitable fonts.

A nice fancy font using inadvisable formatting on a white background can cause issues to dyslexic website visitors

A good font and size kept simple on a pastel background will keep a dyslexic visitors attention.

See below for details on fonts created specifically for Dyslexic readers.  The Open Dyslexic and Dyslexie fonts may be too “different” for you to consider bearing in mind your overall web look and feel but worth a look.  The best alternative is the Tiresias font which is available from Fontsquirrel, see example in the “good” font example above.

A note on the Comic Sans font; you may have heard this is a good font and is commonly used in education by teachers.  The jury is out and a lot of website and blog opinions conflict.  The font was not designed for Dyslexia (designed as font, but not used, for the helper dog in Windows 95).  Also the b and d characters are an exact mirror of each other so may not help.  For a professional website the font is deemed to comic and so not used often.

Colour Blindness

around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colour blind, so effectively 8 in every 100 visitors to your website could be affected by your website design.  What appears to make this harder to workout is that there are 3 types of colour blindness based around problems with mixing up red and green based colours.

  • Deuteranope
  • Protonope
  • Tritanope

All have slight differences in the impact of red and green blindness.  See the diagram below (courtesy of usabilla.com) to see how colours are seen differently. (where tritanormal is a non-colour blind person)

Image showing Colour Blind Chart

So how do we cater for this in our design? The good news is that there is no need for compromise with the aesthetics of your website.  The favourable advice, as it is with catering with a design for Dyslexic visitors, is that most of the considerations are covered by a well designed website that caters for all visitors.  Images, backgrounds and blocks of colour should have the following considerations factored in.

  • Use combinations of colours and symbols
  • Limit the number of colours on your pages
  • Add texture or patterns to blocks of colour
  • Use a range of contrasting colours (not just black and white)
  • Do not use the following colour combinations
    1. Green & Red
    2. Green & Brown
    3. Blue & Purple
    4. Light Green & Yellow
    5. Blue & Grey
    6. Green & Grey
    7. Green & Black

 

Incorrect

Unfavourable colour combination of red and green

Correct

Favourable colour combination of blue and white

Incorrect combination of blue and grey

Good combination of black and greys

What is Colour Blindness

Explanation, design tips and colour blind test.

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