Accessible Web Typography for the Visually Impaired


Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work


Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Science, Information Arts, and Technologies


Interaction Design & Information Architecture

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution 3.0 United States
This item may be protected under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law. It is made available by the University of Baltimore for non-commercial research and educational purposes.


Background: Visual impairments affect millions of people worldwide. Accessible web typography is important in ensuring online legibility for this diverse group of users to help them maintain their independence. However, existing typographic guidelines are based heavily on best practices, with supported research based largely on printed typography, and rarely considers the needs of visually impaired users. The purpose of this research is to investigate which elements of typography have the most impact on visually impaired users in an effort to work towards more accessible typographic guidelines. Method: An in-depth analysis of existing online typography trends found that even with copious resources available web designers are often not adhering to typographic guidelines. This analysis helped build a solid foundation for experimental research with visually impaired users by providing insight into how typography is actually being used on the web. In response, both line height and font size were tested for their effects on simulated macular degeneration. A second experiment tested line height across three other simulated visual impairment types. Results: This study did not show significant effects on legibility for simulated macular degeneration based on font size, although error rate was nearly twice as high for smaller font sizes. Increased line height did significantly reduce the error rate for simulated macular degeneration. When increased line height was tested across other simulated visual impairments, the improvment was not statistically significant. However, this study should be repeated with a within-subjects design before these results are considered fully reliable. Conclusions: As past research has indicated, there may not be one solution for typography that fits in in regards to visually impaired users. Accomodations for the needs of one user may work against the needs of another user. With online access essential to daily tasks, though, it’s important to consider how visually impaired users interact with the web and continue to explore how enhancements to typography can benefit the distinct needs of these users.