11 November 2014

those who think less of Dyslexics while claiming to love them...

"Dutch designer Christian Boer created a dyslexic-friendly font to make reading easier for dyslexics like himself.

'“Traditional fonts are designed solely from an aesthetic point of view,” Boer writes on his website, “which means they often have characteristics that make characters difficult to recognize for people with dyslexia. Oftentimes, the letters of a word are confused, turned around or jumbled up because they look too similar.”

"Designed to make reading clearer and more enjoyable for dyslexics..."
     - Slate 10 November 2014
So says Slate. And here's DeZeen from 9 November 2014...
"Although it looks like a traditional typeface, Dyslexie by Christian Boer is designed specifically for people with dyslexia – a neurological disorder that causes a disconnect between language and visual processing making it difficult for the brain to process text. Dyslexia is estimated to affect 10 per cent of the world's population, according to UK charity Dyslexia Action."
...linking an unrelated authentic charity quote in a bid for validity.

Of course we can go back to TED, the late night infomercial of faux intellectualism. Here's Mr. Boer hustling his font... "now you can cook your fries with no oil, cure baldness, satisfy your wife, and, yes, cure dyslexia..." Yup, if you order now...


OK, if you've watched you will say that he is a Dyslexic, so how can he think less of Dyslexics? Well, its confusing. He's a Dyslexic but really he's a missionary. He is not doing research, he is taking a personal experience and selling it to all as a "personal (and universal) savior." It is not just that he gets the science wrong - though he is right about "thinking in pictures" for many, but he is far off at thinking its about a visual processing issue... but that's not the problem. For many dyslexics reversals and upside-down letters is no issue at all. In fact, no matter how you might describe the underlying issues of reading issues, you will find a scatter plot across any graph.

It is like the colonial subject in 1910 seeing his or her personal issues solved through an interaction with a priest or a minister and assuming that interaction is what the world needs. And at the heart of this is desired ignorance, it is ignorance built of desire not to understand people, to actually believe that people do not count if they are not just like you.

Honestly, at a younger age, I almost made similar mistakes. I found myself arguing for Times New Roman for text, and for WYNN as way of reading. But fortunately, I noticed this absurdity on third person I talked to. He liked Helvetica and Kurzweil 3000, and he wasn't wrong of course, he was different from me. The next person I spoke to found no font useful, no keyboard useful. The next wanted Garamond at a certain size in a certain color combination, though color - within boundaries - had little effect on me. She wasn't wrong, she was different.

So I didn't develop a system for dyslexics, I worked out a way of thinking about choice, because I did not want to rate people according to their distance in similarity from me. I called this idea Toolbelt Theory and I still like it, because I think it respects the people around me.


So in a lifetime of being a Dyslexic, in 20 years of researching Dyslexia, I have learned that there is no best font for this, no best reading method, no best technology choice, no best color combination, no best anything... not even for me across a week or even some days, and I've heard that variability matters for others too. So we need to learn to choose from a menu of what works, to set defaults in browsers but to have other choices, to have a range of technologies.

I choose between 4 fonts, none are designed to look like bubbles being held to the ground because - well - that's not my issue. The computers the students have in our schools come with WordTalk and Balabolka and to in-browser Text-To-Speech system, and there are bookmark links to many others. My computers usually have at least five systems for TTS, my phone has three. But I never, ever, expect any other Dyslexic to choose the same combination.

I have learned that my experience is not "data" because I do not think those different to be outliers or "Children of a Lesser God." So please stop saying what Dyslexics need. And start talking about what choices humans need.

- Ira Socol