Multiple sclerosis, a motor skill disability, is defined as a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the CNS. (National Multiple sclerosis Society) The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that more than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide.
Milder cases of MS can result in one or more of the following symptoms:
- unstable walking,
- slurred speech,
- muscle stiffness, or
- impaired memory.
Severe cases can result in partial or complete paralysis. Not all individuals with MS experience all of the symptoms and, interestingly, the same individual may experience different sets of symptoms at different times.
Toni, a WeCo Staff member, has been living with Multiple Sclerosis since the age of twenty-four. “Individuals with MS confront the decline in their physical abilities and, on a daily basis, must come face to face with their inevitable fate, while never relinquishing their hope for a cure,” she explains. “As a young adult I looked at my future with fear, but decided that I needed to deal with this disease ‘one day at a time.'”
And deal with it she did. Toni raised two young children while completing a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and later went on to develop her own stained glass studio. Now a grandmother of four, Toni assists WeCo in our marketing efforts including website SEO management and event promotion. She is still a sought after stained glass artist, filling custom orders with her intricate and breathtaking designs.
Digital inclusion has brought both opportunities, and new barriers, to people living with fine motor skill impacted disabilities, like MS. “Many websites have not been developed with people living with disabilities in mind. Those of us with limited fine motor skills can find this very challenging because most efforts for accessibility focus on blindness. Online form completion can be exceptionally hard, for example. Being able to fill them out fast enough when they are timed, or the frustration of finding out that the tab order is out of sync,” Toni shared.
Digital Accessibility Tips for People with Motor Skill Disabilities
Some points to keep in mind when developing a website for people that live with a motor skill disability who use a keyboard:
- Make sure the menus, links, and form fields are visually indicated such as having a faint border around it so the user knows where they are at when they use the tab key to move to the next menu, link, or field.
- Ensure that the keyboard can access all parts of a website such as form fields. It is recommended that the keyboard be able to perform the same tasks as a mouse device.
- Provide simple keyboard navigation methods. Keyboard navigation methods should be as straightforward as mouse navigation methods.
- Assign simple and consistent shortcut key combinations for website navigation.
“My battle with MS is not over and the battle for those living with a disability is not either. I continue to envision society making it easier for those with disabilities to live their lives alongside able-bodied people. Let’s keep working toward a barrier-free society for all,” states Toni.
Read more about other disabilities and how to develop accessible websites ffor them in WeCo’s IT Accessibility Information Blog.