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Reading Disabilities

Summary: Reading disabilities occur when a person has trouble reading and comprehending text. People may not be able to read at all and others may read at a slower pace, have problems sounding out words, and understanding what they are reading. The cause of reading disabilities has not been proven but it is believed that it has to do with brain development and the way a person identifies speech sounds. Reading disabilities are not in response to lack of intelligence. Many reading disabilities make it difficult for people to learn.


A common reading disability is dyslexia. People who have dyslexia describe that words are switched around, swapped, and are moving when they are in the process of reading. Similar letters tend to be switched around for people with dyslexia, such as q, p, b, and d.

People who have dyslexia may experience other factors, such as learning letters and sounds, spelling, learning foreign languages, and organizing written and spoken language.

Reading Disability Subtypes

Subtypes of reading disabilities include, language comprehension, phonological deficit, and fluency/naming speed.

When reading there might be problems in a person’s word recognition and text reading, making it difficult to recall a word’s spelling. This is referred to as processing speed/orthographic processing deficiency (fluency/naming speed) and affects the speed and accuracy of reading. Phonological deficiency is applied when a person has trouble processing how a letter or word is supposed to sound. Language comprehension deficiency is often tied to phonological and processing speed/orthographic processing deficiency. People who are comprehension deficit have trouble with vocabulary and have difficulty with abstract and logical thinking.

Reading Web Content

When people with reading disabilities have problems reading text, they will encounter the same problems, and then some, when reading web content. There are many solutions to creating an accessible website. People with reading disabilities experience floating words where they are not seen in an organized line. There are fonts created for dyslexia, that allows the reads to read the text and can be easily applied to websites. When words and letters look similar, changing the contrast or how the words appear on the page help the user differentiate between the words and letters. To help people with reading disabilities, audio and illustrated materials help a person comprehend the words associated with the sound or image. An obstacle associated with forms, CAPTCH security features create a barrier for people with reading disabilities when the text is purposefully made difficult to read.

Assistive technologies are also useful for people with reading disorders. Screen readers convert text on a web page to speech, allowing the user to hear what they are visually seeing. Screen readers have the capability to also highlight the word or sentence being read to help the user keep track where they are on the webpage and follow along. Screen readers are helpful to a multitude of people who have disabilities but websites can contain barriers, that don’t allow the screen reader to fully read the page’s content.

Source Materials:

International Dyslexia Association

Types of Reading Disability

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