Accessible authentication: dyslexia and password strategies

Karen Renaud, Graham Johnson, Jacques Ophoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A significant proportion of the world's population experiences some degree of dyslexia, which can lead to spelling, processing, sequencing, and retention difficulties. Passwords, being essentially sequences of alphanumeric characters, make it likely that dyslexics will struggle with these, even more so than the rest of the population. In this study, we explore the difficulties people with dyslexia face, their general experiences with passwords, the coping strategies they use, and the advice they can provide to developers and others who struggle with passwords. We collected empirical data through semi-structured interviews with 13 participants. Thematic analysis was used to provide an in-depth view of each participant's experience. Our findings are structured around four research questions, encompassing password issues, authentication systems, and broad experiences of living with dyslexia. We conclude by highlighting the need to enhance the accessibility of authentication to accommodate the needs of people with dyslexia, who are increasingly required to access a variety of personalised and work information and online services. The main contribution of this paper is to provide evidence related to the inaccessibility dimensions of passwords as an authentication mechanism, especially for dyslexics, and to recommend a solution direction. Our aim was to highlight the fact that research into viable, pragmatic alternatives is urgently required if legal accessibility requirements are to be met.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalInformation and Computer Security
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Dec 2020


  • dyslexia
  • authentification
  • qualitative research
  • passwords
  • accessibility

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