A motor-skill disability is defined as any disability, which affects one’s ability to utilize fine-motor skills, such as making small movements. Motor-skill disabilities can also affect a person’s ability to walk, control hand movements, maintain a steady posture, etc.
When it comes to web accessibility, motor-skill disabilities present a number of specific challenges that include: difficulties with utilizing or controlling the mouse, making accurate keystrokes, as well as other challenges stemming from poor website design.
Accessible Design Tips for the Motor-Skill Disabled
When designing or updating your website, it’s extremely important to insure that all functions of the site are accessible and usable via the keyboard. This is because many assistive devices used by individuals living with motor-skill disabilities are more likely to either require interaction with, or emulate, the keyboard.
More importantly, these individuals can often have troubles with controlling the mouse due to the fine movements required, making it of paramount importance to insure that the functionality of your website is also made available from the keyboard alone.
One way of accomplishing this is to allow the elements on your website to receive focus when the tab key is used for navigation. It’s also important to insure that some sort of visual indicator is present at all times to indicate which link or element currently has focus.
Accessible Form Error Identification/Focus
When considering accessibility for those living with motor-skill disabilities, it’s also very important to remain cognizant of the fact that, while some users may still be able to use either the mouse or keyboard, they may not necessarily be able to control either of these devices with a high level of precision. Therefore, it’s also a good idea to insure that the forms on your website are tolerant of any errors, such as submission errors, data entry errors, and the like.
One suggestion is to highlight each error with clear visual indicators and plainly written instructions, and use scripts, which automatically move the focus to the form field in need of correction. Techniques such as these make tasks such as filling out forms much less stressful for individuals.
Another point to keep in mind is that this also applies to other types of interactive web-based applications, such as file management, e-mail systems, etc. This means that it’s always a good practice to request confirmation before completing tasks, which cannot easily be undone, such as sending, moving, or deleting e-mails, as well as moving or deleting files.
Appropriate Labels for Controls
Some individuals living with motor-skill disabilities may find it beneficial to make use of speech recognition software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, a comprehensive software package, which allows the computer to be controlled via spoken commands and voice dictation.
While useful, voice dictation can have its’ drawbacks as well. For instance, certain websites may be difficult to navigate with such software, due to a lack of appropriate labels for controls, such as links and buttons. It is therefore key to insure that the links, buttons, and other controls on webpages have appropriate labels, which can be recognized by speech recognition software. For instance, image-based links should have alternative text, which matches the text in the displayed image. That way, the dictation program can reliably determine which link to activate on behalf of the user.
Another consideration to make when designing web content for access via speech recognition is the text used in link labels. For example, a user may instruct the software to activate a link labeled “click here,” but if more than one link on the page has that same label, the speech recognition software may prompt the user to go through additional steps to select the correct link, so it’s a good idea to use unique link labels.
These are some simple and useful tips to help in making your website more accessible and usable by individuals living with motor-skill disabilities. Read more about motor-skill disabilities and accessibility found in WeCo’s IT Accessibility Information Blog.