Introducing dyslexia mode - a new reading option for diginomica content

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed July 12, 2021 Audio mode
Summary:
Today diginomica unveils our latest accessibility innovation with the introduction of dyslexic-mode content. Here's why.

diginomica - dyslexie mode
(via Christian Boer)

When we launched diginomica eight years ago, our guiding UX principle was: keep it lean and free of schlock. Our founding team believed tech media was bogged down in reader-unfriendly intrusiveness - from auto-play videos to ginormous full page pop-ups.

But over time, we asked a different question: what differentiating features could we add, without cluttering the place up?

That led to popular additions like "audio mode," and the "read later" personal archiving feature. Today, we're adding another: "dyslexia mode," a toggle available for every story on diginomica. This is achieved through the use of the Dyslexie font. Why this font? As explained on dyslexiefont.com:

Why was a special typeface needed for people with dyslexia? Christian Boer, a dyslexic himself, knew why. While researching ways to improve readability he saw, for the millionth time, words turning and letters mirroring and swapping, and suddenly he knew the answer: a typeface that would prevent these 3D letter movements. He started designing, and the Dyslexie typeface was born.

What makes Dyslexie font different? Unique features such as:

  • Different shapes - the shape of each letter is adjusted subtly. This way the chance of turning, mirroring and swapping is minimized as there is less uniformity.
  • Heavier bottoms - each letter has a clear baseline, which creates a visual center of gravity and prevents letters from being turned upside down
  • Longer sticks - some Dyslexie font letters have longer sticks, which helps to decrease switching and swapping letters while reading.

We realize that true web accessibility is a demanding pursuit, and no, that work isn't finished. As Cath Everett writes in her piece on dyslexia and the tech industry, tech tools are not going to solve the problem of inclusiveness and neurodiversity in the workplace. But, if the tools help make information accessible, they should be invested in. She quotes the CTO of Texthelp:

People can feel uncomfortable in being singled out for support. So it’s generally in the organisation’s best interest to ensure everyone has access to appropriate tools and that they don’t interfere with people’s life and work. Many tools ask you to use a special interface, but it can be a real productivity killer if you’re moving in and out of applications, so there needs to be as little friction as possible.

That echoes our goal here. Everett notes that the work is far from done: one study cited that a whopping "73% of job-seekers fail to disclose that they are neurodivergent at the interview stage, due to fear of discrimination - and not everyone feels comfortable enough to do so once they have been taken on either."

I had a childhood friend who struggled with dyslexia before it was remotely understood. Exclusionary teaching practices caused her to be stigmatized, and doubt her exceptional intelligence. She made it through but not without colossal determination. I loved this quote from Mark Chillingworth's It's time to concentrate on neurodiversity, via the CIO of Synomics:

I have employed and nurtured neurodiverse people without knowing it at the time, and this has been a highlight of my career. There is no more satisfaction than taking someone who others say "doesn't fit" and providing an environment in which they thrive and flourish, ultimately leading to significantly wider life choices.

Sounds like a pretty good mission statement to me. You can expect us to keep pushing for a more accessible diginomica - and to use our platform to make the case for neurodiversity in tech. In the meantime, we count on you to keep that editorial feedback flowing. In closing, we'd like to thank all those who contributed to the design and testing, especially our development firm Brainsum, whose commitment to building accessible web sites is an asset to readers.