Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dyslexia, design and reading: Making print work for college students with dyslexia. A qualitative interaction design study
by Sykes, Joy, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, 2008, 190; 3305924
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explored whether the design of text-based information can be improved to increase accessibility for college students with dyslexia and what features in a text these learners identify as being the most helpful. Due to the increasing number of people in higher education with dyslexia, and the growing importance of having a college degree, discovering a form of visualization that people with dyslexia find accessible to their way of learning is an important and urgent matter. Designers practicing human-centered interaction design aspire to create useful, usable, and desirable products. But design researchers have yet to conduct systematic inquiry into developing accessible print materials for this population.

To address this gap, identified two research questions: (1) Can the design of text-based information be improved to increase accessibility for adult learners with dyslexia? If so, how? and (2) What features of text do adults with dyslexia find desirable, usable, and useful when reading, and why? To answer these questions, I conducted an iterative design study from an ethnographic perspective, collecting data on a sample of eight college students with dyslexia at Landmark College. Over the course of a semester I looked at the students' experiences with reading using assigned and redesigned materials for a course in critical thinking. Using interviews, observations, document reviews, and questionnaires I tracked students' responses to various changes in the design of course materials over the semester. My findings indicate that accessibility of print-based materials can be improved for these learners with relatively minor adjustments to the text including: increasing the amount of white space on the page, reducing the amount of text per page, signaling important content using bold or numbered lists, using a larger size font and shorter line length.

This dissertation makes four main contributions to current research. First, it presents an understanding of reading print from the dyslexic's point of view. Second, it presents specific design strategies that educators, designers and publishers can use to improve the accessibility of print-based materials for these readers. Third, the work proposes a new model for developing print materials that is not predicated on a disability assumption. Instead, it takes the position of discovering the best fit or match between different readers with different texts, recognizing that the materials themselves are not fixed and need to be designed to work with many different kinds of learners. Finally, it establishes a place for new research within the field of design to begin developing these kinds of materials.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Boyarski, Dan
Commitee:
School: Carnegie Mellon University
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 69/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Design, Interior design, Secondary education, Literacy, Reading instruction
Keywords: College students, Design, Dyslexia, Learning disabilities, Print, Reading
Publication Number: 3305924
ISBN: 9780549525998
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