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What Power BI sources can help inform viewers with dyslexia?

Time to read: 3 minutes

According to the International Dyslexia Association, “perhaps as many as 15-20% of the population in general they have some of the symptoms of dyslexia ”. Also, for many reasons, dyslexia and other written language difficulties are likely underdiagnosed. It is very likely that many people who view your Power BI content will be affected not only by your graphic and color selection, but also by your choice of font and text size.

Personal history

One of my older children is precocious, he is aware of everything, he started reading at a young age and, no matter how many times you mention taking a book off the shelf at once, he always has a pile of books. Another child is not like that at all. Our family doctor said that the former child is unusual and that he should not keep the other children at the same level of expectations. With that thought in the back of our minds, my wife and I did not consider the other child's eventual problem with reading to be of much concern from the beginning. An outside observer who had his own experience with a dyslexic child was needed to help us identify some specific possible symptoms and seek evidence and resources through the local public school system.

I mention this because if it is possible that two college-educated adults with multiple children may not recognize the signs of difficulty in written language early enough in his own houseWhat assumptions about report readers in the workplace could be wrong by extension?

Fortunately, there are some good resources available to help people without dyslexia understand what it takes to tailor teaching, training, and parenting for someone who reads and learns in a different way than you. My local university, the University of Michigan, has a great dyslexia help site to which I mean. They even link to a study to Good sources for dyslexia

Back to Sources

Your Power BI font selection is currently limited to about two dozen options. These include a mix of serif versus sans serif, monospaced versus non-monospaced, bold versus light, and more. While I don't have a definitive list of specific fonts, and would love to hear additional information from readers living with dyslexia, there are some preferred font options, as well as options to avoid when designing Power BI reports.

Tips for more accessible sources

  • Increase your font size - The default text size in many places in Power BI is 8 points, which is too small for almost anyone, much less for people who need to be more deliberate in reading.
  • Avoid italics - provide emphasis on text through other methods, such as bold, increased size, a different color (with appropriate contrast), or try some markdown * syntax * (as Power BI won't display individual markup asterisks in italics ).
  • Use sans serif fonts - Sans serif fonts tend to be more readable than serif fonts, but increase the font size to increase readability if you use serif fonts.
  • Use fonts that provide more distinction between characters - Some fonts have characters that closely resemble others, but try fonts that are more distinctive. As popular as it is to choose Comic Sans, the British Dyslexia Association has helpful comment about him and other sources in this case.
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Power BI font options

With some of those criteria in mind, what Power BI sources might be better for more accessible reading?

Studies or institutions recommend various sources for dyslexia, some of which are available in Power BI:

  • Verdana
  • Arial (+ black arial variation)
  • Trebuchet
  • Tahoma
  • Calibri
  • Comic sans

Other Sans Serif fonts to try in Power BI:

  • Segoe UI (+ bold + light variations)
  • Candara
  • Consoles
  • Bracket
  • Lucida Sans Unicode
  • DIN (default for many labels)

Serif fonts to avoid:

  • Times New Roman
  • Cambria
  • Constantia
  • Courier New (although monospace ...)
  • Georgia

CHALLENGE: Promote accessibility in Power BI

When it comes to reporting design in Power BI, it still seems like accessibility is more of a niche issue than a fundamental one. The best way to make it a fundamental topic is to draw more attention to it. Right now, Meagan Longoria (Blog / tweet) is the leading voice in the Power BI community consequently writing and presenting about it. Let's change that. Read up on inclusive design, start building concepts on your report checklists and to-do lists, and don't leave it at the last minute.

BONUS: Reading Pattern Differences

While not the main focus of this post, Microsoft Research recently released a study and companion video on an eye tracking study for people with and without dyslexia. Although the study involves viewing web search results, it could also give you insight into how people may be analyzing your Power BI reports.

TL; DR - The results found that the scan patterns of the gaze were different. Most dyslexic seekers used a compromise scan pattern (effective read, no scan). Most non-dyslexic seekers used the F-shaped scan pattern.

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