Web Accessibility For Dyslexics Computer Science Essay

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Computers and Systems have become part and parcel of our lives. They have made our lives easy. However, Computers and systems need to be made more accessible, interesting and easy to use for disabled people, as most systems are designed for non-disabled people. Developers need to consider disabled people as well, while developing systems.

Systems have become more interesting and easy to interact with by hardware devices like Mouse, Keyboard, Touch Screens, Joy Sticks, and Speakers.

Apart from the above, new mechanisms like Interactive Voice Response, Voice Recognition Systems, Automated phone answering systems, screen readers have revolutionized the way we interact with systems. The field of study, which deals with the interaction between humans and systems, is called Human Computer Interaction.

Scientists, Universities, Global Corporations are researching on Human Computer Interaction. There are two dimensions in Human Computer Interaction, one the Machine and the other human. For Machines, Programming languages, Computer Graphics, Operating Systems, Databases, development environments etc are critical. For Humans, Communication theory, Linguistics, Social Sciences, Cognitive Psychology and human factors are the key.

Various design methodologies outlining the techniques for Human Computer Interaction were proposed by Researchers. Most methods are based on how users, systems and designers interact. Initial methods treated end users cognitive processes as quantifiable and predictable. Some design practitioners concentrated on cognitive science results like attention and memory while designing interfaces for users. New generation models focus on constant feedback and interaction between users, engineers, designers and lay emphasis on technical systems being wrapped around the user experience. One such design methodology is User Centered Design.

User Centered Design

User Centered Design is a popular, modern design methodology. It keeps the user at the centre in the design of a computer system. Engineers, Users, designers work in tandem to articulate the needs, desires of the user and design a system, which satisfies these elements. UCD is cost effective and increases user satisfaction and productivity.

Web accessibility simply means that, disabled people can access the web. That is people with disabilities can navigate, understand and interact with the web. For instance, blind people can interpret websites through the use of screen readers and text only browsers. Websites that are accessible can also work well on mobile phones, PDA's as well as PC's. With the use of Cascade Style Sheets web designers can set the size type, empowering the users to change the font, so that it fits onto differently sized screens and comes in handy for disabled people.

"The power of the web is in its universality - access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect" (Tim Berners-Lee W3C Director & inventor of the WWW).The most exciting thing about the web is its ability to cater to individuals needs. The web developers have a responsibility to design sites that comply with internationally accepted accessibility standards, like W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

In this report, we would like to focus on web accessibility for Dyslexics.

Cognitive Disorder - Dyslexia

The definition recommended by the Research Group of Developmental Dyslexia of the World Federation of Neurology in 1968 reads:

"A disorder manifested by a difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive

difficulties which are frequently of a constitutional character."

The word dyslexia is derived from the Greek word, dys (meaning poor or inadequate) and the word lexis (meaning words or language).

Statistics reveal that about 15% of the population is affected by learning disabilities, mostly with problems in language and reading. The condition appears in all ages, races, and income levels. Dyslexia is not a disease, but describes rather a different kind of mind that learns in a different way from other people. Many people with the condition are gifted and very productive; dyslexia is not at all linked to low intelligence. In fact, intelligence has nothing to do with dyslexia.

Problems faced by Dyslexic Readers while accessing web.

Difficulty in understanding visual information is one of the biggest problems for dyslexics on internet, which is more graphical in nature. Dyslexic users can have problems with poorly built navigation layout, mass of textual contents and animated media, which distract away from the main content. Small or hard to read fonts, pool of texts and bad color combinations can lead to issues with processing information.

In the below sections, lets discuss the problems and solutions in detail.


Background color

Most Dyslexic readers are sensitive to the brightness of text on a white background. This causes the words to appear to move and to blur.

The solution could be to make the background color off white like below.

The sites, which attract more Dyslexic users, can use a background color changer on the top of the site. Avoid Green on red/pink.

Column width

Wider columns are difficult to read than narrow columns. Most newspapers make use of this technique.

Justified text or unjustified text

In Justified text, the words are spaced by the word processor such that the left and the right sides of each column are straight lines, whereas unjustified text leaves a ragged edge on the right hand side.

Unjustified text is far easier to read than justified text. However, unjustified text may not look fashionable.

Font Type

Times New Roman Font is used as a default font by most computer programs. However Times New Roman has lots of decorative bits added to letters, resulting in more complex to read. Eg. The letter 'g' looks like the number 8.

The font Ariel is clearer without any decorative bits. Hence, it is advisable to use Ariel.


Italics are used in books to accentuate a point. Nevertheless, they are difficult to read by dyslexic readers on computer monitors. Hence, it makes sense to highlight important points in bold.

Language and Layout.

Short, sharp sentences, Clear headings, Bulleted summary lists, healthy line height and spacing between letters will add to the readability of dyslexic readers.

Below are some general guidelines for web designers.

Each site must have a site map and search option is recommended of large web sites.

Use of hyperlinks at the end of sentences is encouraged.

Alternative download pages in a text reader format must be offered.

Very large graphics affect the readability of the pages.

Wherever possible, an option to download WebPages, which can be read offline, should be provided.

Moving text is a problem for people with visual difficulties and text reading software.

More people prefer dark print on a pale background.

Wherever possible, websites should offer choice of background colors.

Ariel font should be preferred as it is easy to read.

Make the font resizable by website visitors.

Both vertical and horizontal navigation on the same page should be avoided.

The number of clicks required to navigate from one page to the other should be kept minimal.

PDF files are ideal for printing but not for online forms or reading.

Over use of large images and photos, slow page loading and are not searchable.

Pop ups should be used sparingly.

Green on Red/Pink should be avoided, as these are difficult for color-blinded people.

Users should have an option to set their choice of font style, size, background and print colors.

Bold text is preferred over Italicized text to emphasize a point.

Use plain simple English to the possible extent.