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By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 4th September, 2013 at 10:15am
People often make assertions about the 'best' font to use to make it easier for people with dyslexia to read text, but this has been done without making use of any real research into the subject. For example, the British Dyslexia Association generally recommends the Arial font, while admitting that "We do not know whether any researchers have tested reading speed, accuracy or comprehension with different typefaces."
Now Spanish researchers have published1 the results of a study, comparing 12 fonts, using eye-tracking software to measure reading time and 'fixation uration (a measure of readability). They also asked the research participants about their personal preferences.
Their main conclusions are that:
- Font types have a significant impact on readability of people with dyslexia
- Good fonts for people with dyslexia are Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and Computer Modern Unicode, taking into consideration reading, performance and subjective preferences. On the contrary, Arial Italic should be avoided since it decreases readability.
- Sans serif, roman and monospaced font types increased the reading performance of participants, while italic fonts did the opposite.
The Open Dyslexia font produced recently specifically for people with dyslexia scored well for reading speed, but was the least popular in meeting personal preferences.
The research supports our view that rather than assuming that a single font (usually Arial) can meet the needs of all people with dyslexia, it is important to make people aware of different fonts and, where possible, let them choose the font they want. (Arial may actually be a bad choice if italics are included as they are particularly hard to read.)
1Rello, Luz & Baeza-Yates, Ricardo (2013) Good Fonts for Dyslexia, ASSETS 2013, Bellevue, Washington USA