…But everyone with dyslexia should try using them!
There are many fonts that have been designed to help the dyslexic reader such as Sylexiad (2001), Read Regular (2003), Dyslexie (2008), OpenDyslexic (2011), and more. Whether these fonts actually work or not, and if they should be tested more, is still up for debate.
Why did creators decide to make dyslexia friendly fonts?
One of the first fonts created was Sylexiad in 2001. Dr. Robert Hillier designed the font by a means of comparative typeface testing as part of his investigation at Norwich University of the Arts. Interestingly, the font has been created from a dyslexic viewpoint through years of studies and tests, which would suggest the characteristics of the typeface are beneficial for the adult dyslexia reader.
According to another creator, Christian Boer, graphic designer, produced his font ‘Dyslexie,’ in 2008 because of his dyslexia. When he was a University student Boer had a lot of trouble understanding typeface and would always take longer to read than his peers. He said that, “Traditional fonts are designed solely from an aesthetic point of view,” which meant that style was chosen without the consideration of the characteristics that could make certain letters harder to recognise for someone with dyslexia. He designed the font, ‘Dyslexie’, so that it would, “stop the letters from looking like they were spinning or moving.”
So, do these dyslexia friendly fonts really make a difference to people?
Well, a common trait for people with dyslexia is the inability to differentiate between certain letters, such as “p”, “b”, “d”, and “q.” Essentially they are all the same letter, and it is the direction they face in that determines which of the four variations it is.
The same for the letters “u” and “n,” which are essentially just flipped horizontally. Dyslexia friendly fonts are designed with this in mind, so the bottom parts of the letters have thicker lines, and they are easier to differentiate. Also, the letters that have sticks and tails, such as “p”, “b”, “d”, and “q,” all vary in length, so that they are easier to distinguish.
What do the experts say?
Guinevere Eden, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Paediatrics and Director of the Center for the Study of Learning (CSL) at Georgetown University, believes that these fonts need more testing. Her CSL research investigates neural representations of sensory processing, and how these are different in individuals with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.
Eden argues that dyslexia friendly fonts need to be reviewed using randomized studies but essentially agrees that the characteristics of these fonts such as thicker lines, slanted letters, varied stick and tail lengths, can make reading easier for those with dyslexia.
Is there any evidence of the fonts working in studies?
The real problem is that there is not enough evidence in the form of studies and tests to show that dyslexia fonts help people with dyslexia to read faster and more accurately. However, research is always useful and necessary to move things forward, so there is a need for these dyslexia friendly fonts to be further evaluated and tested.
What are the first hand experiences from parents/children?
Bec J. Smith, a mother with dyslexia, and son with dyslexia also, wrote about her experience with the dyslexia friendly font, ‘Dyslexie.’ Smith found that the difference weighted formations of the letters made them more unique and that she was able to differentiate between them. Smith also tested the font on her son, who began noticing the differences between the letters, and actually began to read a lot more often, because he began finding it easier. The ‘Dyslexie’ font helped Smith and her son because it reduced confusion between letters, and made the reading experience more enjoyable.
What do people at Nessy think of dyslexia friendly fonts?
I spoke to some colleagues at Nessy Learning to find out their opinions on dyslexia friendly fonts and if they work. Tom, Art Director, Tiffany, Head of Educational Development and Mike, Founder and CEO all said that they have not found using dyslexia friendly fonts beneficial or useful. Tiffany, used the fonts when working with children with dyslexia, and said that she did not see a benefit from using them in her teaching. However, they did all mention that there are many different types of dyslexia and that if a dyslexia friendly font helps someone, then that is amazing, and they should continue using anything that makes learning easier for them.
Are dyslexia friendly fonts widely known or even used at all?
Author, NGK based in the UK wrote the Amazon number 1 bestseller ‘Harry The Happy Mouse’, a children’s picture book about kindness. The author has dyslexia, and during a Q&A was asked, “You’re a dyslexic, why is the font in your book so difficult to read?” He didn’t have a good answer, so made a different version with ‘OpenDyslexic’ font. The book is available FREE to download on iBooks and Amazon Kindle.
Finally, do dyslexia friendly fonts achieve their purpose?
Largely, for someone with dyslexia, the right font can make the reading experience much easier and more enjoyable. Fundamentally, if someone with dyslexia uses the fonts, and they help them, then they have absolutely achieved their purpose! So far from the evidence we have, it is highly likely that the fonts will make learning simpler and more accessible, so they are definitely worth trying!