Ten Guidelines for Improving Accessibility for People with Dyslexia

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by Vashti Zarach, JISC CETIS, August 2002.

Back to Desigining for People with Learning and Cognitive Disabilities Section.


These principles are aimed at enhancing readability and accessibility for people with dyslexia. They will also benefit people without dyslexia, by improving simplicity, clarity and usability.

  1. Make the Website Customisable.

    Make the website customisable, so that people can alter colours, fonts and font sizes to suit their preferences. People with dyslexia have different reading abilities, and different preferences for fonts, colours and sizes; so the website should be easily adaptable by users. An option could be provided on the website which allows people to select text size and background colours. For example, Designing Web Pages for Dyslexic Readers has a colour selector.

  2. Ensure the Website is Readable by Screen Readers.

    Many dyslexic people use screen readers to read text aloud, therefore:

    • Provide alternative text for images.
    • Avoid unnecessary tables, and mark up data tables clearly.
    • Label links clearly (don't use labels such as "click here").
    • Make good use of punctuation, e.g. full stops, so that screen readers pause.

  3. Use Plenty of Images.

    People with dyslexia tend to think in images rather than words. Use images and icons alongside text, particularly for links. Label with alternative text for people listening to screen readers.

  4. Use Numbered Lists.

    Use numbered lists rather than bulleted ones. Manually numbered lists work better with screen readers which may not read bullets aloud. Additionally, some dyslexic people find numbered lists easier to follow.

  5. Keep Text Short and Simple.

    Keep text short and simple, and in small paragraphs. Use small chunks of information, and plenty of white space, to improve readability. Use plain, simple and jargon-free language (unless the nature of the site requires jargon!).

  6. Keep the Website Design Consistent.

    Keep the website design, colours and navigation consistent. Choose a basic layout, colour scheme and navigation scheme; and use these on all the pages. This helps users know that they are still within your website, and keeps the site quick and easy to use, as everything swiftly becomes familiar and predictable.

  7. Keep Navigation Simple.

    Keep navigation simple, and include a site map. Navigation links help people find their way around the site easily and effectively, so the navigation structure and labels need to be simple and logical. From an accessibility viewpoint, it is better to use text as navigation links, rather than buttons or graphics, which may give screen readers problems. However, buttons can be easier for people with reading or learning difficulties to use. If you do use buttons or graphics, make sure you use the alt-text tag to add a description of their content text.

    A site map is an index list of all the pages on a website, which enables people to get an overview of everything on the site. Sitemaps also help people find information when they cannot find things via the navigation links.

  8. Use a Minimum Font Size of 12 Points.

    Small fonts are difficult for people to read quickly and easily but an option for altering text sizes can be added to the site homepage.

  9. Use Sans Serif Fonts.

    Many dyslexic people find sans-serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana easier to read.

  10. Make Sure the Text Can be Printed Out Easily.

    Many people find it easier to read pages of printed text, rather than reading on a computer screen. Ideally, an option should be provided enabling people to print out documents as text only, without all the accompanying website logos and navigation bars.

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