Top tips for creating Dyslexia friendly print materials

Top tips for creating Dyslexia friendly print materials

As well as offering Alternative Format information, what can you do to make your print materials easier for dyslexic students to read?

The Dyslexia Association’ produce some excellent tips on creating dyslexia friendly print materials which are available from the BDA website :

  1. Font Style.

    Fonts should be rounded, allow for space between letters, reflect ordinary cursive writing and be ‘easy on the eye’. Look for a font that spaces letters rather than running them closely together. Bear in mind that fonts that have unusual shaped letters can create difficulties.

    • Select sans serif fonts such as Arial or Comic Sans. Other suggestions include Verdana, Helvetica, Tahoma, Trebuchet and Sassoon.
    • Use a minimum of 12pt or 14pt font size.
    • Where possible use lower case letters rather than capitals. Using capital letters for emphasis can make text harder to read.
    • Don’t write sentences entirely in capitals; this infers that the reader is being shouted at.
  2. Paper.

    • Avoid light text on a dark background.
    • Use coloured paper instead of white. Cream or off-white provides a good alternative.
    • Matt paper is preferable to glossy paper, as this reduces glare.
    • Ensure the paper is heavy enough to prevent text glaring through from the back. Good quality 80 or 90 gsm is effective.
  3. Presentation Style.

    Presentation can make a big difference, both to readability and initial visual impact.

    • Limit lines to 60 to 70 characters. Lines that are too long or short can put strain on eyes.
    • Use line spacing between paragraphs to break up text.
    • Use wide margins and headings.
    • Use of boxes for emphasis or to highlight important text can be effective.
    • Avoid dense blocks of text by using short paragraphs.
    • Use bold to highlight. Italics, or underlining can make the words run together.
    • Keep lines left justified with a ragged right edge.
    • Use bullets or numbers rather than continuous prose.
    • Don’t hyphenate words that are not usually split
      in order to fill up line ends, e.g. “operation”.
    • The space between lines is important. Recommendations suggest a leading (space) of 1.5 to 2 times the space.
  4. Writing Style.

    The way in which text is written can have an impact on the reader. Long and complicated sentences can be difficult for the reader to navigate and comprehend.

    • Write in short simple sentences.
    • Be conscious of where sentences begin on the page. Starting a new sentence at the end of a line makes it harder to follow.
    • Try to call the readers ‘you’; imagine they are sitting opposite you and you are talking to them directly.
    • Give instructions clearly. Avoid long sentences of explanation.
    • Stop and think before you start writing. Be clear what it is you want to say.
    • Use short words where possible.
    • Keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words.
    • Use active verbs as much as possible. Say ‘we will do it’ rather than ‘it will be done by us’.
    • Be concise.
  5. Readability scores.

    When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it can display information about the reading level of the document, including the following readability scores. Each readability score bases its rating on the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence.

    To set your spell checker to automatically check readability, go to Tools, Options, Spelling, and Grammar, then tick the Readability request. Word will then show your readability score every time you spell check.

    • Flesch Reading Ease score

    Rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 70 to 80.

    • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score

    Rates text on a U.S. grade-school level. For example, a score of 5.0 means that a fifth grader, i.e. a Year 6, average 10 year old, can understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 5.0, by using short sentences, not by dumbing down vocabulary.

  6. Posters, boards and leaflets.

    • Keep the design of leaflets simple. Background graphics can make text difficult to read.
    • On leaflets or posters about events, keep essential information about time and place grouped together.
    • On boards and posters, print lowercase rather than using joined writing.
  7. Increasing accessibility.

    Everyone processes information in a different style. It is important to consider this when presenting ideas and concepts. Some people might find it easier to access a long and wordy explanation whilst others may prefer an alternative style.
    For example:

    • Flow charts are ideal for explaining procedures.
    • Pictograms and graphics help to locate information.
    • Lists of “do’s and don’ts” are more useful than continuous text to highlight aspects of good practice.
    • Provide a glossary of abbreviations and jargon.
    • Include a contents page at the beginning and an index at end.

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