Fonts for dyslexic readers

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

Have we not had enough studies to determine that this is not a one-font-fits-all situation, (and dyslexic readers need a font menu)?

Kevin Larson's picture

What is your evidence for this?

hrant's picture

Have we not spent enough time catering to dyslexics when the 99% need our help too?

I still remember the wonderful line from "Chinese Box".

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Surely it is axiomatic that a one-font-fits all situation is limiting, to any group of people, however defined. Who needs studies to prove or disprove this?

hrant's picture

Yes, but there are different qualities of limits.

For example if the manifestation of dyslexia does have more than one cause, we would need more than one kind of solution. For example if making the bottoms of glyphs heavy does help some dyslexics but not all, having 100 bottom-heavy fonts is more limiting than having a few bottom-heavy fonts and then some other fonts that help other flavors of dyslexics.

And the only way to identify the cause(s) is through research.

hhp

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

K:"What is your evidence for this?"

Before the discovery of dyslexia, there was more than one font for everyone else, (though less than one per person).

Do you want to visit the studies of dyslexics that have shown when something is done to type as it's used by normal readers, suspected improvement occurs for some dyslexic readers? Or... do you want to visit the studies of normal readers that have shown when something is done to type, variance occurs from the norm for dyslexic readers?

Kevin Larson's picture

David, I have a great interest in understanding what can be done to help dyslexic readers. I would like to understand your thoughts on the topic.

quadibloc's picture

I've finally found an existing font that is probably suitable for helping some dyslexics...

Artistik

Hobo came close, but was missing some essential features.

EDIT: I've found another one, this one from Mergenthaler Linotype. Oscar - but it doesn't seem to have been digitized. This only has the feature that b and d, p and q are distinctive, and not features to address other forms of dyslexia; but it is at least not too horribly violent a departure from a conventional typeface.

Nick Shinn's picture

The fact that most of the “specially designed for those with disabilities” fonts look like crap to people with any taste at all in typography is a form of stigmatization.

It’s a primitive situation, akin to that which used to exist in many countries with invalid carriages, as they were then known. Of course, those vehicles were well meant and fairly useful, but Motability (in the UK from the late 1970s) is a better idea.

**

As I understand the issue raised by David’s question: Is dyslexia a specific condition, a variety of specific conditions, or a pathologization of those on the low end of the reading fluency bell curve? And what are the implications of these different categories for type design?

hrant's picture

a form of stigmatization

I'm not so sure. Because "people with any taste at all in typography" are probably more of a stigmatized minority! They're seen as snobs. And what I suspect actually ends up happening is that most people think these freakish fonts are "cool", and that makes dyslexics feel like they're getting some cool special attention!

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

… people with any taste at all in typography … [are] … seen as snobs.

I find that hard to believe, certainly within the font-licensing marketplace and amongst professional designers. And such designers must surely resent having to cock up their layouts with clunky fonts, and will likely not care too much about the end result, which is indeed stigmatization.

… most people think these freakish fonts are "cool", and that makes dyslexics feel like they're getting some cool special attention!

That may be true amongst the targeted users, but I’m not so sure that the effect of such fonts in use, as seen by normal readers, will seen as cool, because (a) designers will be using them in a desultory manner, not creating their best and most stylish work, and (b) they’re ugly and geeky (in its original meaning), like the “invalid carriage” depicted above.

Don’t dyslexic readers too see them as ugly, quite apart from their functionality in immersive reading?
Or does being dyslexic mean that one has no sense of aesthetics?!

I don’t have anything against the immersive-reading functionality behind these fonts, if indeed, that can be proven to be meaningful, but the lack of polish in their drawing so far is detrimental to their use in a broader context.

dezcom's picture

"Do you want to visit the studies of dyslexics that have shown when something is done to type as it's used by normal readers, suspected improvement occurs for some dyslexic readers?..."

David,
Are you asking the research community to go back and look at already completed studies concerning dyslexia and apply their findings then to what is now a much larger number of possible typefaces?
If a study indicated that a certain feature of a font's design seemed to help dyslexics somewhat from a possible sample of 500 fonts to choose from, then adding a subset of say 1,000,000 fonts which may have that same or similar feature? The odds are more fonts with said feature are available now than there used to be kind of logic?

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

Thank you for your comments.

So, what should dyslexic readers have for a font menu?

hrant's picture

Wait, I got it: forget different fonts, just have a Freakishness MM axis!

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

Klein, R. & McMullen, P. (1999). Converging Methods for Understanding Reading and Dyslexia. Cambridge. MIT Press.

Probably a good starting point. My copy is on the other side of the continent however.

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