Fine motor skills are the ability to manipulate hands and fingers to perform tasks that require small, refined movements. Examples include: picking up a pen or selecting an elevator button. When you live with limited fine motor skills, accessing website, software and mobile aps can be difficult, if not impossible.
Make Yours a Limited Fine Motor Skill Friendly Website
Mouse-dependent websites, forms, and software products can be very exhausting for these users. You can help by limiting the need for the user mouse through your site. Here are additional suggestions:
- Make sure the element focus is visually indicated so the user can tell where they are, making it easier to navigate websites.
- Leave ample space between links, such as when you are providing a list of resource links on a resource web page or sidebar.
- Make radio buttons and checkboxes larger than you may normally make them, to ensure that they can be easily selected.
- Avoid the use of long drop-down menus in navigation bars. It is recommended to limit the options in navigation bar menus to five or fewer selections.
- Limit the number of links in a page, unless they are there for a specific reason, such as a list of resources on a web page. An example of improper use of links is web pages that embed too many keywords and require the user to click on them to receive vital information.
- Make sure all elements and links are properly labeled. This ensures that users who are using speech recognition software can just say the word or words that are displayed for the element or link to activate them.
Easier to User Forms
Forms can be exceptionally difficult for users with limited fine motor skills to navigate. Keep these ideas in mind:
- When possible, avoid putting a timer on the form. Timers can make it difficult for the user to complete them and may result in lost work and require them to start over again. This can be frustrating and exhausting to a user.
- If a timing feature must be present, as in the case of secure forms, such as those used by financial institutions, ensure that it offers an option to extend completion time.
- Ensure that the user can tab through the form fields in order, eliminating the need to use a mouse to advance through them.
- Make form fields and buttons large enough to be easily selectable for individuals with hand tremors or for users who have difficulty controlling their hands and arms.
- Drop-down menus on forms should also be limited to five or fewer selections.
Watch Speech Recognition Software in Action
Devices and Techniques
People living with limited fine motor skills may use different devices and methods when navigating digitally. Here is a limited list:
- Speech recognition software: This software allows a user to navigate the computer by voice command.
- Word prediction software: Common in most smartphones, this is a handy feature that results in less typing for individuals that may find keyboard work tiring.
- Eye tracking software: Software that allows users to move a mouse and make selections on their computer screen, with their eyes. Eye tracking can also allow people to give their wheelchairs controls commands, if they do not have the ability manipulate hand controls.
- Pointer sticks: These sticks assist users with activities, such as typing or pressing buttons. A person may use their mouth, or hand, to control them.
- Filterkeys: Users can adjust the time a key is held down, before it repeats. This allows them to type more slowly without frustrating ramifications.
- Touch screens: Pioneered as software to assist children living with cognitive disabilities, touch screens can be manipulated with a finger or a stylus. Selection of items on the touch screen can be faster and easier, but also more portable.
- Sip and Puff Controls: Users can control movement of mouses, or make selections on a screen by either blowing, or sipping, air through a special tube.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):