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Improving the Web Browsing Environment for Dyslexics


January 22, 2010

According to an IBM white paper, dyslexia may affect as much as 6-10% of the population. In researching ways to enhance its Easy Web Browsing software (EWB) for learning-disabled users, IBM identified several kinds of supporting functions that were helpful to users with different forms of dyslexia. The supporting functions fall into three main categories.

Category 1: Functions that support visual/perceptual clarity

  • Color overlay—similar to wearing colored glasses
  • Displaying a ruler under the line being read
  • Allowing users to increase the space between lines
  • Zoom feature that works like a hand-held magnifying glass
  • Category 2: Functions that support the user's grasp of character phonology

  • Reading the text out loud using synthesized speech
  • Inverting color of the magnified part of sentences while the text is being read aloud
  • Category 3: Features that help users understand the meaning of text

  • Furigana—for Japanese text, showing the hiragana printed beside each kanji character
  • Adding spaces between words (specific to Japanese text, which does not use spaces)
  • EWB was found to increase both reading speed and ease of reading for participants in the study.

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