The State Department will begin using Calibri font in its official communications to boost accessibility for employees with disabilities, The Washington Post first reported this week. A department spokesperson confirmed the change to HuffPost on Thursday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is giving domestic and overseas offices until Feb. 6 to adopt the sans-serif font in all high-level internal documents, the spokesperson said in an email.
Calibri will replace Times New Roman, which has been the department standard since 2004. The change was recommended as an accessibility practice by the secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the email said.
About 20 million Americans have visual impairments, according to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. Meanwhile, data shows that 1 in 5 children in the country have learning or attention issues.
Fonts such as Times New Roman contain decorative, angular lines known as serifs. These can hinder accessibility for people who use assistive technology such as screen readers and those with learning disabilities like dyslexia, the State Department said.
“Calibri has no wings and feet and is the default font in Microsoft products,” the spokesperson said, referring to serifs. “The new font change will make the Department’s written products and communications more accessible.”
The move has received mixed reactions from department employees, with some saying they don’t like Calibri, according to the Post.
Among the general public, opinions similarly vary on the use of serifs. While some studies show that sans-serif fonts can be easier for certain people to read, others suggest that the strokes can help when reading books and other long texts, said Daniel Castro, the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Often, the difference comes down to aesthetics, Castro said, adding that some preferences are generational.
Still, the State Department’s switch will likely have a positive effect for people with disabilities, moving it a step closer to a more accessible workplace.
“While this change is ultimately fairly minor, it is a sign that the top officials at the State Department are taking the issue seriously,” Castro told HuffPost.