This was prompted by the linked idea, and I speak as
someone with no direct experience of dyslexia.
It seems that font design is particularly important for
dyslexic people, and there has been much discussion (on
fora devoted to dyslexia, and probably elsewhere) on
choosing or designing suitable
fonts. Typically, they try to
ensure that letters are distinctive and clear, that things
like "p","b","q" and "d" are not mirror-images of eachother,
and so on.
Several fonts (both standard and specially adapted) have
been found to be better for dyslexics in general. However,
I suspect that there is room for improvement.
Above all, it strikes me that most reading is (or can be)
done on-line or on a Kindle, which means that there is
much more flexibility in the use of fonts to suit individual
I suggest an application which can be an add-on to any
electronic text reader - be it a web page, a Kindle book, or
a Word document. The purpose of the application is to
adapt the font and fine-tune it to the needs of the
individual dyslexic reader.
Let's assume it's implemented on a Kindle, for argument's
To begin with, the reader can choose from a wide variety
of fonts (including some tailored for dyslexics) according to
The book is then presented in this font.
Once the Kindle has established the reader's speed with this
font (for instance, by noting the time between page-
turns), it starts to introduce some subtle changes to the
font. For instance, it might extend the descenders on "p"
and "q" a little, or use a more 'handwriting style' form of
"a", or make "m" look less like an upside-down "w" (as is
the case in the font you're reading now). It will make just
one such change, chosen at random. The reader will
barely notice the difference.
After a few more pages, the program sees whether the
reading speed has risen or fallen, or is unchanged. If the
reading speed has fallen or is unchanged, it goes back to
the original font, but tries a new random change (maybe
the word spacing is wider, or the line-spacing is altered).
If this change now leads to an increase in reading speed, it
is kept, and the programme goes on to try another
variation to see if it helps further.
Over the course of many books, the font will gradually
evolve to be as readable as possible - *by that individual*.
It may look quirky or ugly to a non-dyslexic reader, or even
to a different dyslexic person, but it will be ideally suited
to that specific reader.
The "tailored font" can be ported across to anything which
that person uses for reading electronic text. They can
have "their" font on their Kindle, on their iPhone, in their
Word documents, on any Web page they browse -
anywhere. Any. Where.
It doesn't matter that other people find the font difficult or
distracting - the dyslexic person can write a Word
document or an email in their own font, and convert it into
a "standard" font when they want to send it to someone
It may even be that this approach would help in developing
"universal" fonts which work well (though not as well as a
personalized font) for both dyslexics and non-dyslexics
alike. Previous attempts at this have not had a strong
evolution/selection component, as far as I can tell.