Accessible Screen Fonts

Fonts which are easier to read on screens, especially for the visually impaired.

Font Recommendations

There are a great number of fonts which could be eligible for use as an accessible screen font. The ones I’ve chosen to show here are some of my favourites, and are all available free of charge. Remember to check whether your font of choice’s licence allows for the use you wish it (for example, some licences are not free when using the font for an app or eBook).

It seems to be a common consensus that sans serif fonts are easier to read on a screen, whereas serif fonts are easier on printed material. Whether or not you feel that this may be the truth, I’ve only included sans serif fonts here.

So here is the short list of my favourite accessible screen fonts:

 

  1. Arial
  2. Clinica Pro
  3. Droid Sans
  4. Lucida Sans
  5. Open Sans
  6. Roboto
  7. Ubuntu
  8. Verdana

 

See below a short description of each font along with samples.

 

 

Accessibility Principles

In terms of font accessibility, there are a number of principles to keep in mind:

  1. Use real text rather than text within graphics.
  2. Select basic, simple, easily-readable fonts.
  3. Use a limited number of fonts.
  4. Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
  5. Avoid small font sizes.
  6. Use relative units for font size.
  7. Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  8. Don’t rely only on the appearance of the font (colour, shape, font variation, placement, etc.) to convey meaning.
  9. Avoid blinking or moving text.

 

 

Font Samples

(paragraph sizes set here at 1em)

 


1. Arial

Arial, sometimes marketed or displayed in software as Arial MT, is a sans-serif and set of computer fonts. Fonts from the Arial family are packaged with all versions of Microsoft Windows, some other Microsoft software applications, Apple Mac OS Xand many PostScript 3 computer printers. The typeface was designed in 1982 by a 10-person team, led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

Typography deals with the appearance of text within a web page. Typography considerations impact a wide variety of disability types, specifically users with low vision and users with cognitive disabilities.

 

 


2. Clinica Pro

Clinica Pro is a modern take on Swiss grotesques, with a little bit of an added personality. It features 8 weights, italics, 6 sets of figures, small caps and a bunch of ligatures.
Still relatively neutral, it lets a brand stand out of the grotesque-crowded environment with support for multiple languages as well as Cyrillic script. Clinica Pro was designed by Andriy Konstantynov in 2013.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

Users with low vision will often alter the display settings within a browser to magnify text or specify specific text formatting paradigms for all pages. Users with cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia, will often find page content to be more comprehensible if alternate foreground and background color contrast combinations can be set.

 

 


3. Droid Sans

Droid is a font family first released in 2007 and created by Ascender Corporation for use by the Open Handset Alliance platform Android and licensed under the Apache License. The fonts are intended for use on the small screens of mobile handsets and were designed by Steve Matteson of Ascender Corporation. The name was derived from the Open Handset Alliance platform named Android.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

The ability of a user to override font size settings is critical for users with low vision and generally beneficial for almost all users with some visual impairment. The most common methods for adjusting font size settings are the browser based commands for altering font size. In Internet Explorer, these commands are found under the “View”, “Text Size” menu.

 

 


4. Lucida Sans

In digital typography, Lucida Sans Unicode OpenType font from the design studio of Bigelow & Holmes is designed to support the most commonly used characters defined in version 1.0 of the Unicode standard. It is a sans-serif variant of the Lucida font family and supports Latin, Greek, Cyrillic and Hebrew scripts, as well as all the letters used in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is the first Unicode encoded font to include non-Latin scripts (Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew). It was designed by Kris Holmes and Charles Bigelow in 1993, and was first shipped with the Microsoft Windows NT 3.1 operating system.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

When developers utilize explicit font sizing, such as defining font sizes in units of pixels, pts, the font resize settings will not function properly. To address this, developers should provide font sizes in relative units, such as percentage or ems. This will allow users to utilize the browser based resizing commands.

 

 


5. Open Sans

Open Sans is a sans-serif typeface designed in 2010 by Steve Matteson and commissioned by Google. According to Google, it was developed with an “upright stress, open forms and a neutral, yet friendly appearance” and is “optimized for legibility across print, web, and mobile interfaces.” Its design is almost identical to that of Droid Sans, with the exception of wider characters and the inclusion of italic variants.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

When sites are constructed to require horizontal scrolling in order to navigate or read content at a normal size of 100% using standard screen sizes, additional problems can arise for users with low vision or mobility impairments.

 

 


6. Roboto

Roboto is a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface family developed by Google as the system font for its Android operating system. Google describes the font as “modern, yet approachable” and “emotional”. The font is licensed under the Apache license. The entire font family was officially made available for free download on January 12, 2012, on the newly launched Android Design website.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

When screen magnification software is used, users may need to scroll horizontally and vertically to see the same screen area, and the scrolling controls may not be visible in the magnified area.

 

 


7. Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an OpenType-based font family, designed to be a modern, humanist-style typeface by London-based type foundryDalton Maag, with funding by Canonical Ltd. The font was under development for nearly nine months, with only a limited initial release through a beta program, until September 2010. It was then that it became the new default font of the Ubuntu operating system in Ubuntu 10.10. Its designers include Vincent Connare, creator of the classic font Comic Sans.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

Screen readers use alternative text (alt text) to provide users with information about images. In most versions of Word, right-click an image and select Format Picture… In the dialog box, select the option for Alt Text, and then type in your alt text. Be specific and succinct so that users will quickly understand what is being described. Different versions of Word have slightly different ways of entering alt text, so use the help in your version for specific instructions.

 

 


8. Verdana

Verdana (released in 1996) is a humanist sans-serif typeface designed by Matthew Carter for Microsoft Corporation, with hand-hinting done by Thomas Rickner, then at Monotype. Demand for such a typeface was recognized by Virginia Howlett of Microsoft’s typography group. The name “Verdana” is based on verdant (something green), and Ana (the name of Howlett’s eldest daughter).

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1234567890 !?£$%&@#

 

h1 Heading

h2 Heading

h3 Heading

 

In accessible documents, tables are never used for formatting layout on a page because it is difficult for screen readers to understand the information architecture and what is being presented. Tables are only used to present data. For screen readers to interpret data in a table so that users can understand how the data is organized, the screen reader needs to be able to identify which cells are part of the header row and which cells contain data. You can indicate that a row repeats on the top of each page in the Table Properties menu in Word.

 

 

Leave a Reply