Motor disabilities include weakness, limitations of muscular control (involuntary movements including tremors, lack of coordination, or paralysis), limitations of sensation, joint problems (arthritis), pain that impedes movement, or missing limbs. (W3C)
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 Advisory Board Member, has been living with Multiple Sclerosis since the age of twenty-four. As Toni explains it, “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.” 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.”
Today, now that society is in the digital age new barriers are faced by individuals with disabilities like Toni’s. “Many websites have not been developed with people living with disabilities in mind. Those with physical disabilities like mine find it hard to fill out forms fast enough when there is a time limit on them, describes Toni.”
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.