[Athen] Text readability: can you tell the difference between "rn" and "m"?

E.A. Draffan ea at emptech.info
Fri Jan 26 08:36:41 PST 2018

A paper called ' Good Fonts for Dyslexia' mentions monospaced fonts as
helping those with dyslexia.

(October 2013


Conference: Proceedings of the 15th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference
on Computers and Accessibility

Luz RelloLuz RelloRicardo Baeza-YatesRicardo Baeza-Yates)

AFB says

"Tracking (Space Between Letters)

Text with letters very close together makes reading difficult for many
people who are visually impaired, particularly for those who have central
visual field defects, such as older persons with macular degeneration.
Spacing between letters should be wide-for example, a mono-spaced font such
as Courier, which allocates an equal amount of space for each letter, is
very readable."

Here is another page suggesting fixed width helps those with visual acuity
difficulties <http://sightlosssolutions.org/FontsReport1.html>

Sample of fonts that may help those with reading difficulties
<https://www.dyslexic.com/fonts/> https://www.dyslexic.com/fonts/

Best wishes


Mrs E.A. Draffan

WAIS, ECS , University of Southampton

Mobile +44 (0)7976 289103



From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On
Behalf Of Christine Robinson
Sent: 24 January 2018 18:31
To: athen-list at u.washington.edu
Subject: [Athen] Text readability: can you tell the difference between "rn"
and "m"?

Hi all -

I've been thinking a lot about readability of text, and I'd like to invite
you to brainstorm with me. This is a long detailed posting, and it won't
hurt my feelings if you delete it here. *smiles* But if you're a curious
person like me.

We're likely all familiar with the general guidelines for readable digital
text: use a sans serif font like Verdana, use good color contrast and font
size, etc.

Lately I've been puzzling over the space between letters, and how typeface
choice affects that:

rn m Il1 Arial

rn m Il1 Myriad Pro

rn m Il1 Times New Roman

rn m Il1 Verdana

(Hopefully this doesn't come across to you converted into plain text; if you
don't see the above as different fonts, you may want to play around with it

My vision is 20/20, but I find that in most cases, the two lowercase letters
RN, next to each other, are difficult to distinguish from the single
lowercase letter M. Depending on the typeface, it at times it's also
difficult to tell the difference between uppercase I, lowercase L, and/or
the numeral 1. Usually I can tell the difference from context, but if it's
an unfamiliar word, someone's name, or a password, it may take me a few
moments to make sure I'm reading it correctly. Same goes for the common
abbreviation for accessibility: a11y.

Fiddling around for better readability, I've tried playing with kerning,
increasing the space between letters. Again, if you get this converted to
plain text, you won't see that in the text below, I've increased the space
between letters by 1 pt:

rn m Il1 Arial

rn m Il1 Myriad Pro

rn m Il1 Times New Roman

rn m Il1 Verdana

It doesn't help with the "uppercase-I, lowercase-L, or numeral 1?" question.
It usually helps with the "rn or m?" question, but as a trainer, I can just
imagine myself trying to tell people to increase their kerning in order to
improve readability. Besides, I don't recall seeing that recommended
anywhere as a best practice for digital accessibility.

So I got to thinking, what about monospaced (fixed width) typefaces? The
characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space, unlike the other
typefaces above with are variable width.

rn m Il1 Consolas (monospaced)

rn m Il1 DejaVu Sans (monospaced)

rn m Il1 Letter Gothic (monospaced)

rn m Il1 Lucida Console (monospaced)

To my eyes, it's usually easier to distinguish between the characters, and
I'm tempted to start recommending that people use a typeface like Consolas
or Lucida Console. However, again, I don't recall hearing any accessibility
people recommending monospaced typefaces.

Anybody have any thoughts on this?



Christine Robinson | Technical Trainer/Writer | Center for Teaching

Georgia Gwinnett College | 1000 University Center Lane, L-2158 |
Lawrenceville, GA 30043

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