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optional background colour aids people with dyslexia
Open, LowPublicFeature


Author: Gerard.meijssen

Between 5 and 10% of a populaton are dyslexic. We can make MediaWiki easier for them to use by enabling a background colour that can be selected by the user.

The Website of Dyslexia USA has on its information pages a very simple drop down box. It offers 8 different background colours. Each background colour helps a different group of people with dyslexia.

It works for any language and any people.


Version: 1.21.x
Severity: enhancement



Event Timeline

bzimport raised the priority of this task from to Medium.Nov 22 2014, 1:23 AM
bzimport set Reference to bz43677.
bzimport added a subscriber: Unknown Object (MLST).

Hi Gerard, could you please elaborate to which exact pages you refer to. Just "everything"?

Gerard.meijssen wrote:

Just everything that is worth reading ... that makes it in essence all pages of all name spaces.


user css makes this already possible for the individual user

Can we just agree from this day forward that "put it in your user css" is not an acceptable solution for any problem, ever?

Just a question: Does dyslexic people use normal browsers without any add-on to do precisely what is requested on this bug?

Do not get me wrong at this. It's a good idea to improve accessibility of the software. The thing is that maybe the dyslexic community already have other ways to improve the accessibility of the sites they visit without the need to adapt *every* website they visit, so we don't have to do anything.

I'm talking about an add-on for Firefox and Google Chrome, named "Stylish"[1] that allows the user to easily create custom CSS styles for any website and enable or disable them. That new stylesheet is then loaded for that website (or specific page, or subdomain, etc). And that page is also a repository of stylesheets made by other people.

I was thinking that maybe the dyslexic community already have a set of stylesheets to address any issue they may have with the color scheme of any particular website, by either the "Stylish" add-on or any other add-on or specific browser they may be using.


I'd also like to say: Can we just agree from this day forward that "use a 3rd party plug in" is not an acceptable solution for any problem, ever?

I am not a person who loves preferences. I hate them, in fact. I believe that, in most cases, the addition of a preference means that the software was not designed correctly in the first place.

However, in the case of dyslexia (or, say, colorblindness), it is perfectly okay for us to add a preference for "use dyslexia styles" or "use colorblind styles".

These preferences should be built into the account creation process, too, but asked as questions:

"Would you like to enable color-blind styles?"

"Would you like to enable dyslexia styles?"

Bam. Simple.

Brandon, Jesús has a good point, and I can't agree with that statement. Don't tell me you're not using any gadgets or user-scripts on Wikipedia.

We were wanting to *simplify* the preferences. We were wanting to *simplify* the account creation process. What you suggest would be going backwards. The same general principle holds here - either make the site look good for everyone, or don't.

I'm certain that tools for dyslexic people exist; even the browsers (e.g. Opera) often include helpful accessibility features by default (like being able to choose your own font for everything, or to change default site styles to something plainer).

Would you also try to add a screenreader feature to MediaWiki to "help" blind people, who already have and use and are happy with JAWS and a multitude of other screenreaders?

There is "simplification" and then there is "simplification". Which is more simple:

Scenario a:

  1. User creates account.
  2. User clicks "preferences"
  3. User clicks "appearance"
  4. User selects certain options.
  5. User clicks save.

Scenario b:

  1. User creates account.

2a) User somehow learns what css is and how to use it
2b) User somehow figures out that they have a personal css file

  1. User edits the URL bar to have it go to User:Whomever/vector.css
  2. User adds css edits to make the site usable for them
  3. User clicks "save"

Scenario c:

  1. User creates account.
  2. Immediately after the account is created - on the "success" screen - user is asked "Do you want to enable X, Y, Z?" along with a "skip this stuff" button
  3. User selects certain options. Options are automatically saved.

Your comment about a screen reader is spurious and not really relevant or useful here.

Please do not disregard parts of my comments and only comment on those which you can easily revoke with some fallacies.

You missed scenario d, user already has their browser configured and doesn't have to customize anything. There seem to exist some extensions for Firefox at least that make it easier.

Also, our skins should at least respect user's background color for <body> setting instead of overwriting the background to white. No options needed for this, somebody should have just thought about it before coding.

I do believe my comment about a screen reader is very much relevant.

Gerard.meijssen wrote:

There are something like 23,633,478 people in the USA who have a problem with dyslexia. Some of them may have their browser configured. However, given the large number of people involved in the USA alone, the number of people who do not have their browser configured is big enough to make no difference in the merit of providing these people with a solution.

Screen readers are a different subject and possibly even probably deserve attention. It is however not what this bug is about.

At issue is not if there are people who have their own solution, the issue is how many people are helped by providing a solution as proposed. When you consider all the people who suffer from dyslexia it should be obvious that we can and should make a difference. Obvious because what the WMF aims to do.


So I've done a little research.

I was unable to find the dropdown you were speaking of anywhere on (which by the way appears to break some of the guidelines I've found - it uses small font size, large paragraphs, distracting colors), but I've found two sites that seem actually helpful:

First one is , particularly these two subpages:

  • - it includes a nice list of tips, all of which seem to make sense to me and many of which MediaWiki already follows
  • - which is the style customisation form for their site. Among other things, it allows for choosing your color scheme(including allowing for the use of browser's default colors) and uses a nice font by default (Trebuchet) instead of the god-awful Arial MediaWiki uses.

This website also, unlike , seems to follow its own advice. Unfortunately they use Verdana for the sidebar menus regardless of your settings, but at least it's not Arial.

And the second one: - I'm not dyslexic myself as far as I know, but I can see this sort of behavior being helpful for me as well. It also showcases a font which has apparently been designed for dyslexics.

Gerard, do you think any of these could be helpful?

Gerard.meijssen wrote:

Hoi, the main page of does not use the medicin used on the follow up pages like They also refer to several other websites from there including a British one with a different scheme.

As to fonts, a font for the Latin script of specific use for dyslexic people is waiting in the wings to be implemented. It will be part of the roll out of the "univesal language selector". This font is freely licensed. Having addional fonts that are different and that are of specific use for dyslexic people would be a boon.

As far as I am concerned the one thing that is important is to include the colour options as soon as practical. The font can be added in the preference once the ULS is life.

Aklapper lowered the priority of this task from Medium to Low.Aug 31 2019, 11:48 PM
Aklapper changed the subtype of this task from "Task" to "Feature Request".Feb 4 2022, 11:13 AM