Designing for users with reading impairments

I have had family and friends who struggle with reading. According to some estimates, they aren’t alone; between 5 and 10% of the population may have dyslexia. It might be one of the most common learning disabilities. Back when I was in school, we never heard of dyslexia, I can’t remember any of my friends being diagnosed with dyslexia, but I remember some of my friends and fellow students struggling to read.

I always felt bad for my classmates in school who couldn’t read well. You could almost feel the tension when the teacher called on them to read. Once a friend of mine had a hard time in class reading aloud, he was sweating trying to get his paragraph out, and it seemed like it took him forever. I was up to read next and decided to take some weird vibes out of the room. Instead of reading the next paragraph, I skipped ahead a couple of chapters and started reading the wrong chapter. The teacher tried to stop me, but I just kept plowing. My teacher was annoyed, but I felt it gave my buddy a break.

I learned a long time ago for some people, reading sucks. There are several fonts designed to increase the readability of people with dyslexia. There’s even a free, open-source font.

I wonder if we would have had the ability to change the font on our textbooks if it might have made reading a bit more pleasant for some of the kids?

And here are a few more tips to help with readability –

  • Keep your layouts and content consistent.
  • Left justified text is easier to read.
  • Consider adding audio or video.
  • Supplement your text with images or diagrams.
  • Don’t lock out the browser. Let the user adjust fonts and colors.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of space between words and letters.
  • Keep your text between 45 to 75 characters in a line.