Evaluating Inclusively Designed Rulers for Readers With Dyslexia and Without
At the leading international conference on Human-Computer Interaction ACM CHI’23, first-author Aleena Niklaus presented Digital Reading Rulers: Evaluating Inclusively Designed Rulers for Readers With Dyslexia and Without. Physical reading rulers have been used with books for years as a readability aid. The research team wanted to explore digital implementations and designed 4 types of rulers for readers to use. They concluded that digital reading rulers could improve reading speed and comprehension for readers with and without dyslexia and found that, consistent with other readability research, there was no single ruler style that all participants preferred.
Niklaus et al. initially conducted the study to evaluate the effectiveness of digital reading rulers for people with dyslexia. While many digital reading ruler designs are available in reading applications, there are no guidelines available about which designs are most effective for readers with dyslexia. The study was expanded to learn if all readers could benefit.
To answer these questions, they used an iterative process to design, validate, and evaluate digital reading rulers. They built a team of developers and collaborators with dyslexia and without. They conducted focus groups to get feedback on different design options. Because dyslexia is so prevalent in the general population, they included participants with varying degrees of dyslexia. Their goal was to build reading tools that help both struggling and proficient readers. Based on this feedback, they created four different digital ruler designs: a grey bar, a lightbox, a shade, and an underline.
The researchers recruited 91 crowdsourced readers with dyslexia and 86 readers without dyslexia. Participants were asked to read a passage of text with and without a digital ruler. Their reading speed, comprehension, and preference for each ruler design were then measured.
The results indicate that all four digital ruler designs led to significant improvements in reading speed for both readers with and without dyslexia. The largest gains were seen for readers with dyslexia, although all readers benefited.
Important for Readability Work
Niklaus et al. concluded that digital reading rulers could improve reading speed and comprehension for readers with and without dyslexia and found that, consistent with other readability research, there was no single ruler style that all participants preferred.
A commonly implemented Readability Feature is the ability for a user to adjust line spacing. The use of a digital reading ruler may be an alternate approach or one that is more effective for some groups of readers.
Watch the CHI’23 session
Learn more about Digital Reading Rulers:
- Play with the Reading Rulers: http://aleena.io/drr
- Access the open-source code: https://github.com/adobe/digital-reading-rulers
- Watch Aleena’s Lightning Talk: Reading Rulers Research Findings
- Read the Adobe Blog: New Adobe research examines user-centric designs for diverse digital reading needs
- Access the full paper here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/3544548.3581367
- See the Journal of Vision abstract: https://jov.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2777804
Digital Reading Rulers: Evaluating Inclusively Designed Rulers for Readers With Dyslexia and Without
Aleena Gertrudes Niklaus, Tianyuan Cai, Zoya Bylinskii, and Shaun Wallace
Physical reading rulers are simple yet effective interventions that help readers with dyslexia. Digital reading rulers may offer similar benefits. Given their potential value, we provide the following contributions: (1) We host focus group sessions including people with dyslexia to build upon their lived experiences, (2) We provide evidence for designs that are effective and preferred, (3) We measure reading gains of rulers for readers with and without dyslexia. Using inclusive design principles, we arrive at four digital ruler designs – Grey Bar, Lightbox, Shade, and Underline. For the first time, we offer a comprehensive evaluation of digital ruler effectiveness on 91 crowdsourced readers with dyslexia and 86 without. Considering reading speed, comprehension, and preference, many readers benefit from these rulers, with the largest gains among readers with dyslexia. Rulers designed by readers with dyslexia increased the reading speeds of readers with dyslexia, supporting the need for inclusive design practices.
Citation: Aleena Gertrudes Niklaus, Tianyuan Cai, Zoya Bylinskii, and Shaun Wallace. 2023. Digital Reading Rulers: Evaluating Inclusively Designed Rulers for Readers With Dyslexia and Without. In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23), April 23– 28, 2023, Hamburg, Germany. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 17 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3581367
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