Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects reading, writing, spelling and language. It is diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence.
Academic research on designing Web sites for people with Dyslexia is limited, just as it is for people with intellectual disabilities. I thus turned to what should be considered “primary” sources of such information, among them the blogs of people who themselves have Dyslexia. Unsurprisingly, there was significant commonality among the relevant recommendations.
- Provide a way to view the Web site using low-contrast pages. Standard black text on a white background can be tiring and can be seen as blurry.
- Use narrow column widths (60 to 80 characters). Tracking lines of unbroken text across a page can be difficult.
- Display text boxes, especially with lightly-contrasted backgrounds. These are found to be helpful in understanding important points.
- Use italics sparingly. That italicized characters lean over slightly means they can be difficult to read.
- If requiring users to enter text, provide a spell-checker function.
Design Suggestions Common Across The Cognitive-Disability Spectrum
- Use left-aligned text. Fully-justified text has an effect known as “rivers of white”. People see white patterns flowing through text more prominent than the text itself.
- Employ text fonts that are large, sanserif, and of even color.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs expressing one idea.
- At least upon the first occurrence, spell out abbreviations and acronyms.
- Don’t use moving images or text, which are very distracting.
- Implement document structure such as headings, bulleted lists and extra-vertical line spacing.
The point can not be made often enough that the suggestions listed above will help everyone. Web designers would do well to heed this advice.
Bradford, J. Designing web pages for dyslexic readers. Dyslexia Parents Resource. Retrieved from http://www.dyslexia-parent.com/mag35.html
Davis Dyslexia Association International, Dyslexia the Gift Web site. (2009-12-14). Web Design for Dyslexic Users. Retrieved from http://www.dyslexia.com/library/webdesign.htm
Page, T. (2009-06-13). Text justification – issues and techniques. Retrieved from http://www.pws-ltd.com/sections/articles/2009/justified_text.html
Pickard, J. (2005 – 2006). What problems would a dyslexic user face? Retrieved from http://www.thepickards.co.uk/Articles/Designing_for_Dyslexia.cfm
Pedley, M. (2006-10-16). Designing for Dyslexics. Retrieved from http://accessites.org/site/2006/10/designing-for-dyslexics-part-1-of-3/
Vassallo, S. (2003-05). Enabling the Internet for people with dyslexia. Retrieved from http://www.ebility.com/articles/dyslexia.php
Note: This post updated on 2009-12-15 to correct content- and formatting errors. I thank Cliff Tyllick for calling my attention to them.