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Graphic design: how to design your book so it is accessible to people with reading difficulties

This article is about designing publications that are accessible to people who have reading difficulties caused by dyslexia, limited literacy, or other conditions that make it hard for them to read, concentrate or process information.*

This article will be of interest to graphic designers and self-publishing businesses like mine.

Note: this article is not about how to  design books for people who are visually impaired, as I do not have any knowledge of that aspect. 

Should your book be designed for people with reading difficulties?

  1. If the way your book is designed prevents people with reading difficulties from reading it, you are immediately excluding that section of your audience
  2. You can design your ebook or printed book so it is more accessible to people who have difficulty reading, as described below.
  3. Note: the way the book is edited also impacts how accessible it is to people with reading difficulties. Read about this editing aspect here.

Graphic design: fonts

  1. People with intellectual difficulties, limited literacy, mild dyslexia, or mental illnesses that make it hard for them to concentrate, find it more difficult to read ‘Serif fonts’.
  2. In contrast, they find it easier to read ‘Sans Serif’ fonts. For example, people with reading difficulties find it easier to read fonts such as Comic Sans, Lucinda Sans and MS Sans Serif
  3. Using larger-than-usual fonts also makes the text more accessible to people who have reading difficulties
  4. Creating a book that is more accessible to people who have dyslexia can be achieved by using a dyslexic font. This font is often used when the audience includes dyslexic people. An example of the ‘dyslexie’ font is  here.

Graphic design: leading

The ‘leading’ is the space between the lines.

  1. Use a wider than usual leading
  2. Having a wide leading helps people with reading difficulties not get ‘lost’ in the text
  3. Having a wide leading makes the text easier for them to read. This makes it easier for people with reading difficulties to read.

Graphic design: layout

  1. Line length and left-justified
  2. Keep the line length to a minimum
  3. Left-justify the text; that is, the endings of the lines will be ragged
  4. If appropriate to your publication: lay the text out in two or more columns, instead of one, to keep line length to a minimum
  5. Place your images on the left and your text to the right. Why? 

More information about producing books that are accessible to people with reading difficulties

Download the Centre for Applied Disability Research publication (PDF) at: Accessible written information practice guide.

Image: photo by Pixabay (creative commons licence).


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