Over 10% of the European population are living with dyslexia: an estimated 45 million citizens. As Europe’s most widespread learning difficulty, it impacts a significant portion of the population, many of whom may not be diagnosed. Europe and the internet are currently not accommodating for people with learning disabilities like dyslexia. This makes daily life considerably more difficult and may lead to anxiety or confidence issues. Furthermore, the co-occurrence rate of dyslexia with other learning difficulties like dyscalculia is quite high, indicating a definite association. This means that for many living with dyslexia, dyscalculia or anxiety may further compound issues and make education and daily life even more difficult. However, there are simple approaches to web design that can help make sites more accessible for those with dyslexia.
Many of the most important accessibility practices come down to the design and layout of pages. Making your content readable, while quite simple in practice, has a massive impact on the quality of life of your users. Use clear, evenly spaced and simple fonts like sans serif size 12-14, which is widely considered to be the most readable. Avoiding italics and instead using bold for emphasis is also helpful. Italics can be difficult to read because of the way the words flow into each other. Icons can provide valuable prompts to all users, giving a visual indication as to the meaning of the text they appear alongside.
If your website is centred around content generation, such as a blog or news outlet, making sure that your editors and writers understand accessible writing practices is important. Content marketing has become an increasingly important aspect of business in the digital age. This has led to companies of all kinds employing copywriters to generate leads or sales and content writers to build organic traffic and long-term brand exposure. While these writing roles differ substantially, together they represent a significant portion of today’s internet culture and text-based content generation. As this content continues to dominate search results and media, it becomes increasingly important for dyslexia-friendly practices to be baked into its production.
Traditional CAPTCHA has long represented a denial of service for many people with disabilities. This is because of issues inherent in its design: a task built to be difficult or impossible for robots will most likely exclude many people with disabilities. For people with dyslexia, reading is, of course, difficult, and identifying obscured or distorted text is next to impossible. CAPTCHA alternatives are a large part of making the internet accessible for all, and providing them is paramount when doing a check for non-human users. These alternatives include image classification tasks, algorithms to detect non-human users, logic puzzles and honeypots.
Dyslexia slows the rate at which a person can read the content of a page. It stands to reason, then, that if the content of your page changes automatically, it should do so slowly enough to be read by everyone. However, avoiding content that changes automatically altogether is considered best practice. Removing timers for activities is similarly beneficial.
Site navigation is another source of difficulty for many with dyslexia. While many sites may provide basic accessibility considerations, site navigation is often overlooked. Navigation systems that rely on search tools are a particularly common example of this. There are a number of alternatives, but adding a site map is among the easiest and can significantly improve the accessibility of your website.
As the internet continues to grow and develop, it becomes increasingly important to implement accessible practices. The services and information it provides are an ever more dominant aspect of our lives, but for millions, access and effective use of these resources are significantly more difficult or even impossible. Thankfully, many of the most effective changes to accessibility are also quite simple to implement. Considerate fonts and text distribution can make large blocks of text much more readable, while site maps and icons can make websites simple and straightforward to navigate for everyone.