Best (and worst) Hebrew fonts for people with Dyslexia

I was reading about this great open source project to develop a Latin font suitable for people with Dyslexia, OpenDyslexic. I began to wonder about the experience of Hebrew readers with Dyselxia. What is the best font? What is the worst font?

If there are no good fonts yet designed for Hebrew readers, this would seem to me a great challenge whereby Hebrew typographers could collaborate with one another and with the larger community in designing a better font. The GPL+Font Exception seems like the right license to facilitate such collaboration.

I'd love to learn what anyone knows about Dyslexia and Hebrew reading.

Aharon Varady
the Open Siddur Project
http://opensiddur.org

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

I found this on the OpenDyslexic website:

Clearly there is an emphasis on the lower part of each latin letter I wonder of this
is a necessary feature for it to be effective? In Hebrew there is a tendency to emphasise the upper part of the letter. In Hebrew instead of a baseline, the letters hang downwards from a line though the top of the text.
Mike

eClaire's picture

Having worked w/a dyslexic bat mitzvah student, I found, with patience he was able to get through a 2 book series by ARE Publishing (which I can't find right now, & don't quite recall the name). It was, however, by a speech & language specialist. I was much encouraged, but realizing he could only handle chatimot (which was fine by our Rabbi), still realized it would need to be enlarged. Still, we kept encountering problems. I had expected him to do better, but although he actually reads a lot for someone who is dyslexic, there really wasn't much progress. So, I went back to transliteration for him, but since I was typing it myself, decided to add a few extra spaces between words. At some point I realized that that was why he managed the Hebrew readers—they were columns of centered words with plenty of space between the words. I added probably eight to ten spaces between the words, and later saw some research stating that it was the space between the words horizontally that made it easier for dyslexics to read, not the vertical space. Colour coding was also helpful. I would break the Hebrew into phrases in any such siddur, much as Mishkan Tefillah has done (except for central prayers like their V'Ahavta & Tefillah—a big mistake for struggling readers).

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

Karl Stange's picture

Claire, would you be able to share any visual examples of the text you prepared? I would be intrigued to see examples of both the spacing (admittedly much easier to conceptualise) and the colour coding, particularly intrigued about whether there was a range of contrast (minimal vs. extreme) that you found more productive.

While not specifically related to Hebrew I think it is worth referencing the earlier Typophile discussion about the Open Dyslexic font. I would like to think that terrible design is not a solution and the lack of evidence in support of it would seem to support that.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

I think this thread here is a good read on the subject of dyslexia too:

http://typophile.com/node/107355

quadibloc's picture

The commercial font Dyslexie, whether or not it's really a good idea, more thoroughly illustrates all the features that some have thought of as being beneficial to dyslexic readers; it was discussed here, but not in the thread pointed to above.

Here's the original thread:
http://typophile.com/node/83691

eClaire's picture

Karl, simply using English, it would be something like this:
Blessed are you, A----- creator of lights.
Or, in transliteration, it might have evolved to:
Ba-ruch a-tah A----- yo-tzeir ha-m-o-rot.

In terms of colour coding, since I usually take slower readers, I have found it helpful to use highlighters on their copies of the service. For example, purple for the brachah formula & closing chatimah formula, which also seems to help them understand the structure a little better (as well as reducing the text to concentrate on). Names are in orange, penultimate accented syllables in pink, congregational responses in yellow, kamatz katan in yellow as a reminder of its sound. I might also use little red tick marks on words where they might need reminders of syllable divisions, as above. Colored sheets of paper visually divide different sections of the service, much like the kaddish does. From the responses of my students when they forget their books, it seems to help them focus and navigate easier.

There is also a system of coloured overlays that seem to aid reading abilities of certain individuals who have distortions reading text on a white background. There is a rather interesting book about this syndrome, Reading By The Colors, by Helen Irlen, and further info at irlen.com.

quadibloc's picture

Having worked w/a dyslexic bat mitzvah student, I found, with patience he was able

This appears to be a typo.

An individual who would be preparing for a bar mitzvah is referred to by the personal pronoun "he".

An individual who is preparing for a bat mitzvah would be referred to by the personal pronoun "she".

Unless my cultural knowledge in this area is defective.

eClaire's picture

A good catch—it was indeed a BAR mitzvah student I was referring to.

eClaire's picture

This did not seem to come through well. Should have been:

Karl, simply using English, it would be something like this:
Blessed are you, A----- creator of lights.
Or, in transliteration, it might have evolved to:
Ba-ruch a-tah A----- yo-tzeir ha-m-o-rot.

eClaire's picture

Interesting. This self-corrects. I had placed 10 spaces between each word, which self-corrected to 1 space between words.

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