Web Site Design Suggestions for People with Dyslexsia

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.

Design Suggestions

  • 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.

Sources

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.

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5 Responses to “Web Site Design Suggestions for People with Dyslexsia”

  1. Cliff Tyllick Says:

    Thanks for this clear presentation of small but important actions all writers can take to make sure more people have access to the information they produce.

    I do have one question, though. Doesn’t full justification make text harder for almost everyone to read, especially for people who have dyslexia? (I thought so, but I notice that this site uses full justification.)

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    • John Rochford Says:

      You are absolutely correct. The text of this blog was justified. It is fixed / left-aligned now.

      I chose to use WordPress and its default theme primarily because of the good reviews I received about its accessibility. I did not notice the text justification problem until after I had used the blog for a short while. When I did, I could find no WordPress setting that fixed it. Recently, I discovered I could purchase an option to modify the blog’s style sheet and thus fix the problem.

      In one of life’s little coincidences, I purchased the option this afternoon, logged into the blog this evening to left-justify the text, and saw your comment. It made me realize I had waited too long to take action on the problem.

      I thank you for identifying it. If you or anyone else has any more such feedback, I am open to it.

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      • Cliff Tyllick Says:

        John, the improvement is immediately noticeable. I’m just shocked that you had to pay for the option. It’s also interesting to me that so many of the problems with text alignment that appear in the WordPress forum are unresolved.

        You’re doing a great job getting this information online. There must be folks in the accessibility community who have enough experience with WordPress to help you straighten out all of these stylesheet issues.

        Do keep up the good work.

        Cliff

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  2. The Blind Buzz on Accessibility « The Blind Buzz Says:

    […] Web Site Design Suggestions for People with Dyslexia « Clear Helper – this might also be helpful for some people with ‘visual tiredness’. […]

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  3. Some essential links « Contemporary Typographic Media Research Blog 2012 Says:

    […] https://clearhelper.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/web-site-design-suggestions-for-people-with-dyslexsia/ […]

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