CALIBRI CRISIS: Biden State Department focuses on ‘accessible’ font choices amid world instability

Amid a number of ongoing global crises and instability across the world, the State Department under President Biden is working on ensuring ‘accessible’ font choices in its documents.

According to an internal directive sent from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the agency’s staff are no longer to send him any documents using Times New Roman font, but will instead be forced to use Calibri in an effort to be ‘more accessible.’

The directive, first obtained by Washington Post reporter John Hudson, comes as the war between Russia and Ukraine, which the Biden administration says has contributed to rising energy costs and historic inflation for Americans, continues to fuel uncertainty in Eastern Europe, and as increasingly worrisome tensions between China and Taiwan hamper hopes for better U.S.-China relations.

‘The Times (New Roman) are a-Changing: Department Adopts a More Accessible Font,’ read the subject line of the directive.

‘Secretary Blinken has directed the department to adopt Calibri, a Sans Serif font in 14-point font, for all paper submitted to the Executive Secretariat,’ the directive said.

‘Starting February 6, 2023, domestic offices, and bureaus, as well as posts overseas, also should adopt Calibri as the standard font for all requested paper in support of creating a more accessible Department,’ it added.

Hudson noted he was ‘informed’ the change wasn’t because of ‘some aesthetic opposition to serifs’ by Blinken. He pointed to further details mentioned in the cable that said such fonts ‘introduce accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities.’

‘The Department has used Times New Roman as its standard font for paper going to the 7th floor since February 1, 2004; however, fonts like Times New Roman have serifs (‘wings’ and ‘feet’) or decorative, angular features that can introduce accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities who use Optical Character Recognition technology or screen readers. It can also cause visual recognition issues for individuals with learning disabilities,’ it said.

Pennsylvania State University classifies both Times New Roman and Calibri fonts in the same category of fonts with ‘reasonable legibility,’ but neither made its list of ‘highly recommended fonts’ for accessibility, which include Verdana and Tahoma fonts.

According to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, both sans-serif fonts, like Calibri, and serif fonts, like Times New Roman, ‘are recommended because they are most likely to be accessible to all users.’

It does, however, note that some serif fonts might be ‘slightly less readable because they contain those decorative elements that sans-serif fonts do not.’

Fox News Digital reached out to the State Department for comment and received a response pointing to its statements on accessibility already included in the directive. It added, however, that the agency sought to be ‘a public sector leader in modeling accessibility best practices.’

‘The new font change will make the Department’s written products and communications more accessible. It demonstrates Secretary Blinken’s allyship to those with disabilities and underscores his support for employees with disabilities. Moreover, this change underscores that the values and message of disability inclusion are not restricted to any given month or period, but something that should be pursued all year round,’ it said.

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