Finding a font with certain characteristics for reader with blindspot
February 9, 2020 7:40 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine has a blind spot in the middle of her field of vision due to a macular hole, and as a result struggles with reading. Her college is happy to provide materials printed specifically for her, but she doesn't know what language to use to describe the font characteristics that are helpful for her, or what specific fonts she might suggest.

I got this message from a friend the other day:

I just started taking classes this January and I'm struggling with reading. The Center for Student Access is helping me (including printing off all my electronic textbooks) but I need guidance in recommending fonts to my instructors.

So: My macular hole never healed to full thickness so, while smaller, I still have a blind spot in the middle of my right field of vision. Brains don't like looking at holes in visual fields so they make their best subconscious guess and I never know when my brain's guessing right or wrong. Reading English it's not so bad because my brain is great at English letter and word pattern prediction. Math is a lot harder because my brain doesn't intuit that, for instance, 7.8 pounds of water per gallon is fundamentally wrong so it never calls a flag on the play until it can register it must really say 7.5 pounds of water per gallon. Meters (m) and miles (mi) are easy enough to distinguish until they're raised to the power of two and the superscript plays around with the serif on the 'm'. Oy!

Anyway. The double vision can give me troubles distinguishing 2s from 3s. (Not as intuitive as 8s, 0s, 3s & 5s but there are a multitude of ways people can be visually impaired.) I've found if, rather than look 1/3 of a snowman round, the top of the 3 is angular like a seven and the bottom is nice and round, I don't have near the trouble confusing 2s and 3s.

So, do you know the language that is used in the typesetting world to describe pokey vs plump 3s? Do you know of a way to search a database of fonts for this feature? Do you know what sort of person might know?

I said, "Somebody at AskMetafilter will have some ideas," so here we are.
posted by Orlop to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
American Typewriter is a font that has a 3 similar to what's being described.

Also, you or your friend might want to try drawing out some desired characters and uploading them to and seeing if it will come back with some similar fonts. There's an ap version, too.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:51 AM on February 9, 2020

Are these choices your 'smooth' and 'poky' 3? If so, choose the smooth one for some fonts that include a smooth 3 — and you can keep choosing features after that if you want to get more specific.

Here I've chosen a smooth 3 and a bunch of other "normal" font features — not glitchy looking, not blackletter, not made out of goofy pictures, etc — and off to the right are some popular fonts that have all those features.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2020

I used Identifont and filtered for the "0-9" option and put the number 3 in the "limited set of letters" box. After answering a series of questions, it suggested the following fonts with flat-top 3s:
  • P22 Johnston Underground
  • Museo Sans 100
  • Paralucent
  • Bureau Grot
I also found a list of fonts with flat top 3s on fontshop.
posted by belladonna at 9:27 AM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are some brief, useful guides for font accessibility and readability available. Here's one:

Font Readability

She might want to experiment with some of the standard fonts listed at that link as a starting point. In general, accessible/readable fonts are usually sans-serif since -- here's some terminology -- they lack "the flared extensions, strokes, or other kinds of ornamentation" that are a feature of serif fonts.

A section of this research paper (pdf) deals somewhat with fonts, readability and central vision loss.

Apologies if this has already been looked into, but you mention that she's reading a lot of material from hard copies, so do you know if she's looked into a closed-circuit TV magnifier? They're available as various small, portable models and larger desktop versions. They used to be big, clunky devices reliant on CRT monitors, but there are now are tons of highly portable models, and there are magnifier apps like this one that use smartphone or tablet cameras.

For laptops or desktop computers, Zoomtext offers levels of magnification and contrast schemes that greatly exceed the capabilities of default Windows or Mac magnification features available through the built-in accessibility options.

Depending on where she's located, there are often assistive technology grants available for people enrolled in postsecondary education that help defray the cost of assistive technology like CCTVs and magnification software.

Source: I've had expert supervision in preparing this response since I'm married to someone who has the inversa variant of retinitis pigmentosa (i.e., the early onset was quite similar to macular degeneration or having a hole in the macula), and who works in accessibility standards and compliance.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

Scanning through the hundred or so fonts that I have in MS Word, I didn't find a clear winner to match what was asked for, but I would suggest looking at Lucinda Console and the OCR fonts. These are designed for readability by man or machine and seem to have greater spacing between the letters which might help.

I'd also suggesting looking at different type sizes. Bigger type usually means easier to read but comes with other annoyances like using too much space and too much paper.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:56 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My friend is thrilled with the info she got from your answers, and asked me to pass on her thanks.

Good job, people. Thanks a lot.
posted by Orlop at 7:26 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

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