Can a Font Solve Dyslexia?

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I was hanging out with some of my UXCamp Ottawa peeps and @lovelace asked me if I had caught the CBC Spark episode featuring Open Dyslexic. Naturally, as soon as I got the chance I took a listen and was really taken by the story about this font that aims to make content more accessible to people with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

A sample of Open Dyslexic font

What is Dyslexia?

If you don't have it, you might know dyslexia as a learning disability characterized by difficulty in reading, specifically letters being transposed or reversed. To be precise, it affects a learner's ability to decode and understand words, which in turn affects their overall comprehension and spelling. (Source)

A Dyslexia Font?

So how much of a difference can a font really make? If you check out Open Dyslexic's Facebook page and scroll through all the comments, it would seem that it can make a BIG difference.

According to OpenDyslexic's own website, here's why:
Letters have heavy weighted bottoms to add a kind of "gravity" to each letter, helping to keep your brain from rotating them around in ways that can make them look like other letters. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent flipping and swapping.
So by designing a font in which the letters are wider at the base than at the top, the letters are more grounded and less prone to shifting. And it appears to be working.

Wow, who knew that redesigning a font could make content more accessible? You geeks never cease to amaze me.

Try it, use it, build it

Not only is the font itself impressive, but so is the approach to development: OpenDyslexic is available with a Creative Commons license so that it can be expanded upon and used as widely as possible. Instapaper now supports it. There's a Chrome Extension for it. And countless other projects being worked on, including an effort to bring the font to print publications.

  • Want it? Check out this list of versions for mobile, web and desktop.
  • Want to work on it? Download dev files from GitHub
  • Want to learn more about the project and the developer behind it, Aberlardo Gonzalez? Check out DyslexicFonts.com, the home of OpenDyslexic.

(Source: @lovelace)