Between 10 and 20 percent of people live with dyslexia, a learning disorder that causes people to uncontrollably rotate, misplace, and confuse letters as they read. This can cause great difficulty and embarrassment for children who are trying to do well in school and for adults who have to navigate the written word in the workplace.
While there’s no cure for dyslexia, there are ways that life can be made a little bit easier for dyslectics. Famously, the font Comic Sans has gained a reputation for helping people with dyslexia be able to read more easily, and research has suggested that this is true. More recently, though, other fonts, geared specifically for dyslexic people, have emerged as well.
In 2008, graphic designer Christian Boer developed Dyslexie, which takes the reading experience a couple of steps beyond just the shape of the words. Here’s a brief summary of the font, as told in a Reddit post that had gotten over 78,000 upvotes on r/ALL as of this article’s publication:
Whereas Comic Sans does some similar things with the actual letters as Dyslexie does, like exaggerating the differences between letters by increasing the size of openings, Dyslexie goes a step further by altering the kerning, spacing, and bolding of the letters. But for a long time there wasn’t any research to back up the claims of the designer, who actually charged $69 for the font until 2014, when he made it free to use.
A 2016 paper in the journal Dyslexia sought to clear up whether Dyslexie is actually all it’s cracked up to be.
Researchers gave low-progress readers who were just learning to read English a reading test with both Dyslexie and Arial. They found that the readers performed slightly better with Dyslexie over Arial. Interestingly, they found that when they spaced Arial the same way that Dyslexie is kerned, the difference disappeared, suggesting that it’s not the shape of Dyslexie that makes it better, as Boer claims, but simply the kerning.
This study wasn’t done on people with dyslexia, though, so its findings don’t tell us the whole picture, though it does help us understand what can make a font better for them.
In a 2010 master’s thesis, Dutch student Renske de Leeuw conducted an experiment that showed no significant improvement with Dyslexie. But anecdotal reports from dyslexic adults say that fonts like Comic Sans and Dyslexie have changed their lives. So clearly scientific research has some ways to go if we are to mesh these null results with seemingly positive lived experiences. In the meantime, if you have dyslexia, you may as well give one of these fonts a try.