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Web accessibility and dyslexia

beezfedia profile image Beez Fedia ・2 min read

“Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up. Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.” - Richard Branson

About dyslexia

Between 5-10% of the global population experience dyslexia. That's approximately 700 million people. According to the NHS, dyslexia can be described as a learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn't affected by dyslexia. It is a lifelong problem that may present some day-to-day challenges.

Web accessibility for dyslexic people

There is one surprising point to consider when ensuring your website is accessible for dyslexic people. If you follow the A11Y Project checklist to the letter you'll miss it – I did. If you use the standard axe accessibility testing tools or the WAVE web content accessibility checker they won't alert you to it either. Even if you've ensured your web content is well structured, using readable fonts, ensuring lines of text aren't over 70 characters long, with sufficient colour contrast levels, avoiding green and red/pink colours, you still won't have met this need.

Off-white backgrounds

Where your site includes long blocks of text, consider using an alternative to a white (#FFFFFF) background. If possible, use cream or a soft pastel. Where dyslexia is concerned, white can be too dazzling. It can cause words to blur or swirl together.

When checking your site for accessibility, consider the following 2 points:

  1. Can you use an off-white colour for the background of text blocks?
  2. Can you use dark grey text in place of black?

Discussion (13)

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beezfedia profile image
Beez Fedia Author • Edited

I should probably add that justified text also causes a number of problems for dyslexic people. It's best to simply left-align text.

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Michael Fasani

I was tested for Dyslexia as a child and the test came back negative but I have some issues which still plague me till today. I really dislike justified text.

If what you say is correct then these concerns could be suggested to the above organizations and that data/info should be included.

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Polly

Good to know! Thanks for the tip.

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Beez Fedia Author

You're welcome!

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easilybaffled profile image
Danny Michaelis

Thank you for pointing this out. It's always nice to hear others talk about Dyslexia here. I've resorted to using the browser's native text-to-speech/SpeechSynthesis API for most things. Though it is a wretched API. Have you come across any TTS solutions?

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Beez Fedia Author

Nothing better that I'm aware of I'm afraid. There are some out-of-browser solutions, such as Google Cloud Text-to-Speech, Amazon Polly or Microsoft Azure (Cognitive Services Text-to-Speech). They take more setup although AWS Amplify makes using Amazon Polly less time consuming through its Text-to-Speech library.

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Elliot

I'll add that there are fonts which are designed to be readable for those who have dyslexia! dyslexiefont.com/en/typeface/

If you go into the settings of your DEV.to account there is even an option to use a dyslexia-helping font! I think it's awesome that DEV thought about that. Even if you don't have dyslexia, it's worth changing your font in the settings for a bit, just to get a sense of what it's like so you can empathize with dyslexic users :)

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Beez Fedia Author

Thanks Elliot, I didn't know about this !

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Adam Crockett

Every programmer I tell about my being dyslexic, seems to not be surprised but instead they are also dyslexic! It's quite funny.

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Beez Fedia Author

Yeah, it's way more common than I thought, plus it gives you superpowers.

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Adam Crockett

How many of the global population are programmers? Would be an interesting stat overlay to have a potential number of dyslexic programmers.

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CassiopeiaSky

Love this!

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