How Dyslexia Friendly are Your Documents?

Yesterday I attended a course on dyslexia, and the trainer gave us a few tips to make your documents easier to read and process for people with dyslexia. They are easy to implement and will have no, or very little, cost to you or your organisation.

One of the problems people with dyslexia have is glare from the paper. This can cause words to appear squashed together with big spaces between which sometime resemble rivers running down the page. To help counter this:

  • Use cream paper instead of white for hand-outs
  • Don’t cram too much text on a page. Leave plenty of space.
  • Use a minimum point size of 12 for printed documents and 28 for PowerPoint presentations.

It is difficult for them to distinguish between certain letters such as b and d, or p and q. Simple ways to help with this are:

  • Use a dyslexia-friendly font: Comic Sans, Tahoma, Verdana and Primary Sassoon are the best. In an emergency Arial will do, although the letters in Arial are less rounded so it is not quite so good.
  • Never use serif fonts (the ones with flicks) such as Times New Roman.
  • Never use block capitals for headings. Capitals have no ascenders (sticks up like in b d h) or descenders (tails below the line like in g p y) so it is harder to distinguish between the letters.
  • Never use underlining, because the line mixes in with the letters) or italics because that distorts the letter shapes. To emphasis a word or phrase use bold.

Finally, people with dyslexia find it difficult to track along a line of text and then back to the beginning of the next line. To help make this process easier:

  • Use a minimum line space of 1.5.
  • Avoid using columns as this means they have to track back more often.
  • Use bullet points to break up long, text heavy paragraphs.
  • Always left align documents rather than justifying it.
  • Don’t start a new sentence at the end of a line.

Many thanks to Rachel Ingham for these ideas. If you have any other ideas for making documents more dyslexia-friendly I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Related posts:
A Multisensory Approach to Spelling
A Multisensory Approach to Reading

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10 Responses to How Dyslexia Friendly are Your Documents?

  1. Sue Kerrigan says:

    Great tips SJ thanks for sharing. I would add using a finger or a pen to follow what yr reading is a great help to keep your place and read faster. This helps my reading speed no end. Some children don’t like to use their finger but they do like using something cool like their favourite lego character for example :). Also coloured reading rulers are helpful.

  2. Mayumi-H says:

    We deal a lot with keeping web documents compliant with standards for visually-impaired users, but we don’t often think about dyslexia issues. Thanks for sharing, Sally-Jayne. I’ll keep this in mind when I code my next page!

  3. Bill says:

    Hi such a useful post. I’m now looking at wordpress themes which can make posts more user friendly. Do you have any recommends?

    • sjbwriting says:

      I’m afraid not. There is such an overwhelming number to choose from and I haven’t found one yet that seems suitable. If I get any recommendations from others I’ll let you know.

  4. Delft says:

    Good points. Happily Verdana is my favourite font.
    Why is left align better than justify? I find left align dreadfully untidy, and think it gives documents an unprofessional look. Possibly because all professionally printed texts (books, papers, magazines etc) are justified?

    • sjbwriting says:

      It’s to do with having difficulty tracking to the end of one line and then back to the start of the next one. If the lines are fully justified they all look the same and so it’s easier to lose your place. Left justification means the lines are different lengths so it’s easier to distinguish between them. I’ll see if I can get one of my more knowledgable friends to give you a better explanation…

  5. Sue says:

    I think you bang on the money there SJ. Also, the other problemo with fully justifed is that it sometimes does strange spacing in between words and letters in words making the text harder to read because words can look like they are part of another word. I never use fully justified as I find it impossible to read, it might just as well be a whole line of random letters that have no connection.

    • sjbwriting says:

      Thanks Sue. I knew you could come up with a better explanation. I hadn’t thought about justified text altering the spacing between words, but that makes so much sense now you mention it.

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