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19 November 2012

WAI R&D Symposia » Text Customization Home

Text Customization for Readability Online Symposium


This symposium brought together researchers, practitioners, and users with disabilities to explore the needs of people with low vision, dyslexia, and other conditions and situations that impact reading. It promoted new research, ongoing research, and analysis of past research related to text customization for readability. The goal is to encourage user agent developers, standards developers, policy makers, web designers, and others to provide specific functionality in mainstream web products by helping them better understand and implement text customization.


Many people need to be able to customize text in order to read effectively. Aspects of text formatting that users need to customize include: text size, text color and background color, font face, leading/line spacing, linearization/reflow, kerning, letter spacing, word spacing, line length, text style, justification, and more, including changes to all text and changes at the element level (e.g., headings different from body text).

However, there are few resources that provide clear guidance on text customization. Additionally, most of this customization has not been well integrated in mainstream user agents (web browsers, etc.), nor is it sufficiently included in some accessibility standards and support material (such as the Section 508 standards).

One reason for lack of sufficient text customization functionality may be a lack of awareness of and research on users' needs. This symposium aims to address that gap.

User Group

This symposium focuses on a specific group of people with print disabilities: those who can see and can read, but have difficulty reading text in common designs and thus need to specify different text characteristics in order to read effectively. It includes:

  • people with low vision, including people with declining eyesight due to aging,
  • people with dyslexia and related disabilities,
  • people with other difficulties reading,
  • anyone in difficult situations that impact reading, such as high stress situations, low light conditions, reading on a moving mobile phone, reading a non-native language, and readers with low literacy.

The primary focus is on people who use mainstream technologies and do not regularly use assistive technologies (AT), such as screen magnification. Some people do not use AT because the functionality does not meet their needs, poor usability, complexity, cost, availability, or other factors. For example, some people do not use screen magnification because while they need to increase text size to read, they do not want to increase images or other screen elements; and some need text to wrap to avoid horizontal scrolling � functionality that most screen magnification software does not provide. Research with AT users can inform how to meet the needs of this user group.


The objectives of this symposium are to:

  • Define the problem space: Describe the text customization needs of people with low vision, dyslexia, and other conditions and situations that impact reading.
  • Share and compare: Discuss what we know about how text customization helps people read. Discuss what people do and don't do in relation to text customization.
  • Synthesize and organize: Analyze applied and experimental findings and integrate them into a report that offers clear recommendations.
  • Guide: Start developing actionable, research-driven guidance for user agent developers, standards developers, policy makers, web designers, and others on integrating specific text customization functionality in mainstream products.
  • Shape: Recommend future research efforts that will help us understand and implement text customization functionality more effectively.


The Text Customization for Readability symposium is organized by the W3C WAI Research and Development Working Group (RDWG). For information about RDWG, see the RDWG FAQ. If you have additional questions, contact Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C Staff Contact).

Symposium Chairs

Scientific Committee