A Font for Dyslexics?

Many thanks to CSH Computer Science Department Chair Tracy Sena for this link! Ms. Sena sent me an interesting video from a Dutch research group that claims to have developed a “font for dyslexics,” which they’ve (affectionately? oddly?) named “Dyslexie.” The video that accompanies the release is compelling: it talks about how dyslexics perceive letters (they flip the letters, they invert them, they confuse them for other letters with similar shapes), and it offers this font as a way to abate some of that conclusion. These letters are “weighted” at the bottom to make them seem more anchored to the baseline; they are “tipped” to make the lowercase “i” and “j” more distinct; the openings in the “c” and “e” are wider to make them more clearly different from one another. These emphases, the researchers claim, make text generally easier to read and could increase reading speed for all readers, dyslexic and non-dyslexic alike.

View the blog posting and video here: http://osocio.org/message/dyslexie_a_typeface_for_dyslectics/

View the researchers’ website (in fairly mangled English) here: http://www.studiostudio.nl/project-dyslexie/

I was a little skeptical about this, so I asked a student who has shared her struggles with dyslexia with me. We watched the video together and I asked her for her reaction. “This is awful!” she groaned. “It looks like a little kid’s handwriting! It’s actually worse to look at than regular text!”  As a dyslexic reader, she explained, she’s learned strategies for reading text in its normal form, using fonts like Helvetica and Times New Roman. She has experienced exactly the letter-switching and letter-flipping that the video described, but she’s come up with ways of coping with those tendencies that work. By now, she’s adapted to the way text is in real life. With this font, she added, it’s like learning a whole new alphabet. “It’s more distracting than anything else,” she said.

What do you think? I think it looks a little like Comic Sans, which makes me uncomfortable, but I do kind of like the “weightiness” of the font’s baseline. I’m eager to get more comments from my font-snob friends and from student readers, both those who have struggled with dyslexia and those who have not had reading problems in the past.

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