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

Andrea L. Dietrich adietrich at cornell.edu
Fri Jan 26 08:52:30 PST 2018

My personal favorite font is "Noto Sans," which is from the free Google Font collection. Since I'm sure most of you don't have it installed by default, here's an image sample:

[cid:image001.png at 01D3969C.24079E60]

-Andi :)

Andrea Dietrich
Cornell University
Student Disability Services
Cornell Health, Level 5
110 Ho Plaza
Ithaca, NY 14853

Tel. 607.254.4545
Fax. 607.255.1562

Office Hours:
Monday-Thursday 8:15AM-4:45PM
Friday 8:15AM-4:00PM

From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of E.A. Draffan
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2018 11:37 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Text readability: can you tell the difference between "rn" and "m"?

A paper called ' Good Fonts for Dyslexia' mentions monospaced fonts as helping those with dyslexia. http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/sites/default/files/good_fonts_for_dyslexia_study.pdf
(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/
Best wishes

Mrs E.A. Draffan
WAIS, ECS , University of Southampton
Mobile +44 (0)7976 289103
UK AAATE rep http://www.aaate.net/<https://www.outlook.soton.ac.uk/owa/redir.aspx?C=WUwOCw_4FszLSzcUbkoFdDkad8-Q_GrRfPYUJ_ol5l2ebx78I2DUCA..&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.aaate.net%2f>

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<mailto: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 yourself.)
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 Excellence
Georgia Gwinnett College | 1000 University Center Lane, L-2158 | Lawrenceville, GA 30043
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