Digital Accessibility for Dyslexic Users

RW Patel
3 min readFeb 26, 2021

Keywords- dyslexia; accessibility; human factors

I. Introductions

The design of digital interfaces according to accessibility standards includes recommendations for software engineering to ensure the intended content is accessible for all users. According to the Web Accessibility Initiative, digital accessibility is the ability of the software, websites, mobile applications, or electronic documents to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users including those users who have visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia. [1]

The World Health Organization reports that over 15% of the global population has some form of disability. The following report is drawn from US participants in their survey. [2]

Impact of Digital Accessibility

5.1% have serious difficulty seeing

7.1% have serious difficulty hearing

2.1% have difficulty having their speech understood

5.6% have difficulty grasping objects

9.7% have cognitive difficulties

1 in 10 have symptoms of dyslexia

Table I. World Health Organization

Dyslexia is a neurobiological disability that impacts learning and cognitive functions such as accuracy with word recognition, spelling, spatial sequencing, and decoding abilities. The cognitive difficulties of dyslexia typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other advanced cognitive abilities. A secondary consequence of dyslexia may include problems with balance and directions.

II. Background

In her series “Designing for Dyslexia” Laura Beyers correlates a physical design of a coffee cup shape to that of letters and numbers. [3] The shapes of the mug can be mirrored and easily observed and perceived at different angles, unlike letters and numbers that follow a linear sequence and needing to be processed in complex sequences.

Table II. Designing for Dyslexia by Laura Beyers

Detailing her own personal account of Dyslexia, Laura Beyers provides an account of her experience correlating physical difficulties like tying shoelaces, reading clocks with hands, and problems rhyming. Researching the conditions further she creates design solutions for dyslexia and speaks regularly on the topic.

Traditionally considered a reading and spelling disorder, designing for dyslexia follows guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative and other organizations recommending inclusive design strategies for application software.

III. Solution Overview

Ensuring digital applications are accessible requires the use of assistive technologies to test digital applications. The importance of keyboard and point-click devices is necessary for users of screen readers such as; NVDA, JAWS, VoiceOver (MacOS and iOS) and Talkback (Android). Screen magnification is built into most operating systems (ex. “Magnifier” in Windows) or Magic or ZoomText.

The Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) standard is the recommended markup system for digital content accessibility that describes the role of document structure and data values. [4]

ARIA: A FORM FIELD

<div role=”form” id=”send-comment” aria-label=”Add a comment”>

<label for=”username”>Username</label>

<input id=”username” name=”username” type=”text”>

<label for=”comment”>Comment</label>

<textarea id=”comment” name=”comment”></textarea>

<input value=”Comment” type=”submit”>

</div>

Table III. WAI-ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications

Human Factors International recommends the following visual and contextual guidance for improving content readability, not just for people with disabilities such as dyslexia but for all users.

· shorter line lengths for digital media with line length between 65–100 characters per line

· sans serif fonts like Arial/Helvetica, Sassoon, Tiresias, Comic Sans, Century Gothic, Verdana, Trebuchet, Calibri, and Courier

· character spacing and color contrast are more important than specific than the actual choice

· be consistent and limit the fonts

· leading 12pt font should be 18pt (1.5 line space)

CONCLUSION

The concerns of digital accessibility are shared universally across the business. As such universally accessible designs result in improved usability, improved search engine optimization (SEO), reduced legal risk, and better product quality for all users.

[1] International Dyslexia Association

[2] World Health Organization. “World report on disability.” World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report/en/ 2011

[3] Laura Beyers. Designing for Dyslexia. In proceedings, Designers and Geeks. November 2019

[4] Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), w3.org/WAI

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RW Patel

Helping teams find digital relevancy through user experience and data-driven insights.