Today in the United States about 15% to 20% of the population may have symptoms of dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association. A few of them are weak spelling, poor writing and imprecise or slow reading. A dyslexia font tries to ease some of these symptoms, making it more comfortable for dyslexic people to read. But does it actually work, and if so, which are the better fonts to use? Let’s dive deeper into it!
First of all, if you are not dyslexic, then you may have a hard time understanding what is the real difficulty behind reading. As an empathy exercise, try reading this font and notice how you feel.
Now that that is settled, we may get into what a dyslexia font actually is. It is a typeface, which means a particular design of type, that is designed for dyslexic people. Its objective is to make reading and text comprehension easier and more comfortable for them.
Before we go any further, it is very important to understand that dyslexia is a language disability, not a visual one. So using a specific font or not cannot be used as a treatment of any kind, and it even may not change the dyslexic’s reading ability. However, there is absolutely no harm in trying to find a font that is better and makes reading easier for you. In fact, many dyslexic people eventually find a font of preference, but this is a personal choice.
Even though we just said that finding the best dyslexia font is an individual experience, there are some common characteristics that the typeface must have to improve disability. Here they are:
This includes all fonts without serif. But wait, what are serifs? They are little projections that appear at the end of some letters. Usually they are chosen for aesthetic purposes. To illustrate, Arial is a sans serif font, while Times New Roman is a serif one.
Also known as roman style fonts, they use an upright typeface. Meanwhile, italic and oblique fonts are more slanted and stylized.
Monospace fonts present the same amount of horizontal space between every letter on a line. They are not the ones usually found out there. Their opposite, and most common, typeface are proportional fonts, in which letters have a different spacing between them depending on their size. For example, the space occupied by the letter “i” is normally smaller than the space the letter “o” would take up.
Well, there is not any scientific evidence to verify this theory. Since dyslexia is not a visual disability, using different fonts does not have that big of an impact in their reading and text comprehension experience. In other words, it is not proved that dyslexia fonts can actually help dyslexic people read faster or with fewer mistakes.
However, as we have said before, many dyslexic people claim that dyslexia fonts do help them. It is an individual experience, and they can even help make reading more comfortable for people with other disabilities. Either way, we encourage you to try finding out if there is a better font for you out there.
Despite there being some different dyslexia font options available, all of them share some of the same characteristics. They all aim to achieve a reading experience in which it is easier to identify which letter is which, being able to form complete words faster.
Without further ado, dyslexia fonts usually use thicker lines on the bottom of the letters, are monospaced, upright, sans serif and use longer lines to differentiate similar letters (such as b, d and p).
There is no universal right answer, but we have put together some commonly preferred fonts for people with dyslexia. Check it out.
These are the ones that were specifically designed with dyslexic readers in mind. Let’s learn more about them.
Dyslexie was designed by the Dutch graphic designer Christian Boer, who was also dyslexic. He was trying to come up with a font that would stop the letters from looking as if they were moving or spinning around. This is a licensed font, which means you have to pay for it if you want to use it.
Some of its more unique characteristics are thickened letters and punctuations to better identify where sentences start and end, longer lines and thicker bottoms.
Open Dyslexic takes the same approach as Dyslexie, but pushes it a bit further. It uses even heavier bottoms and more irregular letter shapes, in order to help prevent that perception of moving letters.
A fun fact about this font is that it was created to be heavily inspired by other dyslexic fonts (in this case, Dyslexia), but more affordable, so it is free and open source.
Gill Dyslexic was created by the same Christian Boer that came up with Dyslexia, but this is a cheaper option. Its goal is to reduce the symmetry between letters, making them easier to differentiate.
Read Regular also aims to avoid symmetrical letter mirroring, just like Gill Dyslexic. However, it has some different features, such as uniquely but functionally styled letters with longer lines and bigger spacing.
Lexia Readable draws inspiration from Comic Sans (which we will talk about later), wanting to design a more mature version of this popular font. It was designed to remain readable even for font sizes as small as 8 sizes. It also has long lines, big spacing and asymmetrical letters.
Sylexiad is described by its designer, Dr. Robert Hillier, as an ongoing design investigation. It is a collection of fonts focused on what readers actually prefer, instead of what is said to be faster or more accurate. It is the most different dyslexia font of all, trying to imitate handwritten text.
These fonts were not especially designed for dyslexic people, they are standard one, available almost everywhere. Therefore, they are easier to have access to.
Arial is a sans serif font that is not monospaced. It works really well as long as it is not in its italic form.
Comic Sans is often recommended as one of the best fonts for readability, despite the amount of backlash it receives for being too childish, unprofessional or outdated. As the name suggests, it has no serifs and its irregular letter design makes it easier to focus on the individual parts of the words.
Verdana was designed for better readability both on screens and in printed form. It is also sans serif, although it is not monospaced.
Helvetica is the oldest font we mentioned, being created in 1957. As well as the others, it is sans serif and not monospaced.
Tahoma is very similar to Verdana, but with taller letters. It was designed for better readability in small sizes, such as menus and dialogue boxes.
Century Gothic gets its inspiration from geometric sans serif styles from the 1920s and 1930s. It has more rounded shapes than most fonts.
Trebuchet was also inspired by the 1930s style, and was designed for better screen readability. It presents itself as a humanist sans serif font.
Calibri is very similar to Trebuchet, both in style and in its objective. It was created to be the default font for Microsoft products.
Open Sans also resembles Trebuchet and Calibri. It is another humanist sans serif font.
We have prepared a list of DOs and DON’Ts to help you when choosing your next font. Check it out:
Even though there is still no scientific evidence that backs up the theory that dyslexia fonts help dyslexic people to read, there is no harm in learning more about them and giving it a try. Also, many of these tips are also some accessibility practices in terms of other disabilities, even mentioned in the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG).
Adopting best practices for dyslexic readers makes all written content easier to comprehend for everyone. Do you notice how we can all gain when investing in accessibility? So how about you learn more about accessible content and how it creates a good user experience for all? To find more accessibility content and design tips, check out the Hand Talk Blog!