How many people do you think are dyslexic in your church? Obviously, these figures aren’t always reflected in every church (due to demographics, etc…), but roughly 1 in every 10 people have some form of dyslexia. This means that in a church of 300 people, probably 30 of them are dyslexic. That’s a sizeable amount of any congregation or church website readership and yet it is often neglected and not thought about.
My siblings and I are dyslexic (to different degrees) and my youngest brother found certain aspects of church particularly difficult due to his learning difficulties. So today I want to help you enable your church or ministry to better communicate to your dyslexic members of the congregation. (To be clear, ChurchMag could improve in some aspects here, we aren’t doing everything right.)
What is Dyslexia?
For everything that is known about dyslexia, much is unknown. Some countries do not recognize it as a learning difficulty, and for a long time, many people with dyslexia were written off as just “dumb” all because they had issues with homophones, handwriting, and so on. Luckily that is no longer the case and we now know that those with dyslexia use different parts of their brains to process information than the rest of the population. This often enables dyslexic thinkers to have “out of the box” ideas (as they are literally thinking in a different way), but it also comes with some common side effects such as poor spelling, difficulties reading, poor motor control, and issues with their memory.
One of the reasons dyslexia is so hard to identify is that it can often come in very different forms meaning one person can have few issues with spelling but have much more difficulties with reading and vice versa. I could go on much longer, but it is worth checking out this book “the gift of dyslexia” if you want to find out more or the links at the end of the post.
How to Make Materials Dyslexic Friendly
Many people have heard that “comic sans” was created for those with dyslexia. Whether that is true or not I don’t know, but it certainly shares characteristics with other “dyslexic” typefaces. Unfortunately, these typefaces actually don’t seem to help or aid dyslexics as much as they would like to boast. In a selection of comparative studies more typical fonts which were Sans-serif, Roman and Monospace such as Helvetica, Courier and Arial were found to be the best for dyslexic readers in terms of speed, accuracy, and enjoyment of reading. Check this creative market post for more and learn more about a special font called, Dyslexie.
Don’t Use a White Background
Although plain white backgrounds are very popular at the moment, they aren’t the most useful for dyslexic people. A bright white background with black words can lead to the effect of the words jumping around the page. An off colour cream is usually better (each individual has a unique preference, but white is generally not that great. Black with white text can be equally bad).
Use Bold Instead of Underlines and Italics
Italics and underlining can cause the letters to appear to meld together. It is much better to use bold text to make something standout. That’s not to say you shouldn’t at all (in fact this is one area where some of the dyslexic typefaces do very well), but be careful.
Avoid Green and Red
Dyslexia is often accompanied by color blindness, greens, and reds can be difficult to distinguish in this case, so be careful.
Don’t Use ALL CAPS
All caps can be very difficult for dyslexics to read, in addition, it makes you look like you’re shouting…so you know there’s that too. In case, you didn’t get the point: DON’T USE ALL CAPS!
Don’t Put Too Much Text on Each Line
Reading for extended periods of time can be very difficult for dyslexic readers. Help them by using good sized fonts with nice spacing and white space. Consider using columns to help break each line down if you really need to put a lot of information on one page.
Bullet Points and Numbered Points Are Helpful
Long prose is not the friend of dyslexic readers (even if it makes you appear all clever and smart). Bullet points and number lists are much easier to take in information from.
Support Text with Images
Visuals are a dyslexics best friend (usually). Often they can help embed a point or idea more than text on its own. Using an image provides a memory hook and the more memory hooks you give someone, the greater the likelihood that they’ll remember it. Furthermore, you prime the reader for the topic, ideas, or emotions to expect which helps with their reading.
Use a Tool to Test Readability
There are plenty of tools online that you can use to test the readability of your article and ensure that it can be read by a wide audience. A site like read-able.com will give you various readability scores. A good target is a grade of 5 [or lower] on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade and between 70 and 80 on the Flesch Reading Ease system. For the record, the ChurchMag homepage reads at 4.4 on the Flesch-kincaid grade and 75.2 on the Flesch reading ease system.
Avoid Moving Text
If text is normally difficult to read for someone with dyslexia and looks like it is jumping around on a page, imagine how much more difficult it would be for a dyslexic person to read something with moving text!
Use Line Spacing of 1.5
When reading, it is not uncommon for dyslexic readers to confuse lines, either skipping a line or returning to a previous line. Providing a greater line spacing helps to distinguish between which line they should be reading.
Use A Font Size of at least 12
If a font is too small, then it is going to inhibit their reading. Make sure that your regular main font is at least 12 or more. If you need small print or other small text then fine, use a smaller font size, but keep at least 12 as your minimum.
Remember the Basics of Writing
By this I mean the general truths of writing which are almost always good to follow such as:
- Avoid using the passive tense
- Avoid jargon
- Delete words you don’t need
- Use strong verbs
- Avoid double negatives
- And so on…
Check out Rachel Bloms fantastic writing series for more advice.
Consider Using Different Mediums
Reader text is usually difficult for dyslexics, fortunately, it is becoming easier to share information via other mediums. Why not record an audio version of a post (maybe even turning it into a podcast) or create a video with the information in? This also provides you with more methods to reach out to your audience.
Not Just for Dyslexics
I’m sure you’ve realized as you’ve read through, that these points are not just true for dyslexic readers, but for everyone. That’s the great thing about making dyslexic friendly tools and resources. In the end, it will help you communicate with non dyslexics better, too.
Extra Links and Resources
[Girl reading iPad image via dutruong.t733 via Compfight cc, Dyslexics are people too image via Jamison Wieser via Compfight cc, Dyslexia type pages image via tregenza via Compfight cc, and Guy looking at his computer screen image via RdpC via Compfight cc]