Understanding and addressing dyslexia in travel information provision

Project details

Full project title: Understanding and addressing dyslexia in travel information provision

Sponsor: Department for Transport (DfT)

Research student: Deborah Lamont

Supervisory team: Professor Glenn Lyons and Shane Snow (DfT)

Start date: September 2003

Finish date: September 2007

Project briefing sheet: Download the briefing sheet document (PDF)

Project summary

Dyslexia and travel

The word 'dyslexia' comes from the Greek meaning 'difficulty with words'. It is best described as difficulties that affect the learning process in one or more of reading, writing, spelling, listening, speech, motor coordination, organisation, orientation and spatial awareness; difficulties with numbers are also frequently experienced.

It is estimated that dyslexia affects between 4-6% of the UK population but it has been suggested that up to 10% of the UK population show some signs of dyslexia. Such difficulties can be extremely prominent when faced with the task of accessing, understanding and interpreting travel information throughout the entire journey lifecycle; the symptoms of dyslexia exacerbated by the fact the individual is trying to process information at speed and under stressful conditions. Yet remarkably examination of the cross-disciplinary literature into travel information and dyslexia revealed that the cognitive (rather than physical) accessibility barriers to transport faced by individuals with dyslexia appear to be the subject of limited research.

Research goals

Accordingly, the research is attempting to address this, seeking to explore and highlight the needs and usability issues that these individuals encounter during a journey lifecycle. It forms part of the UK Government's travel information initiative, Transport Direct.

A series of focus groups have been undertaken with dyslexics and the research has subsequently involved accompanied journeys to allow detailed insights to be gained into the experiences and challenges of planning for and undertaking a journey when dyslexic. The ethnographic research attempts to capture and convey the real emotional setting these individuals find themselves in, and examines the relationship between the symptoms, the cause and experience.

Research outcomes

The research has highlighted a large number of practical difficulties in the task of travelling and travel information use, because these individuals are trying to function in a world created by non-dyslexics for non-dyslexics. This often leads to stress, thus aggravating the symptoms of dyslexia. Many of the difficulties are arguably also experienced more widely by non-dyslexics, but the fundamentality of dyslexia exacerbates problems so that those with dyslexia feel the effects more frequently and severely.

The research calls for greater attention to be given to the needs of dyslexics in the design of travel information and suggests that this will potentially benefit a much wider group of people, both disabled and non-disabled travellers, and those that currently do not travel due to the inaccessibility of travel information.