Fine motor skills are the capability to manipulate hands and fingers to perform tasks that require small, refined movements, like picking up a pen or selecting an elevator button. People living with motor skill-related disabilities may have limited or no use of their hands and arms. They may also experience shaking or hand and arm tremors.
People living with motor skill-related disabilities have various non-traditional mouse device options that make it easier for them to move around websites or other applications. Following are some assistive technologies that may be used by people living with motor skill-related disabilities:
- Speech recognition software: This software allows a user to perform actions simply by speaking different commands. For example, a user may open a link by saying the link name, or moving a mouse by saying where in a grid they want the mouse cursor to be.
- Mouth or hand sticks: These sticks assist users with activities, such as typing or pressing buttons. Mouth sticks have a plastic or rubber feature on the end that is inserted into the user’s mouth, and a rubber tip on the other end. Hand sticks are strapped around the user’s hands and typically have a rubber tip at the end to provide better traction.
General Design Considerations for Accessible Websites
Mouse-dependent websites, forms, and software products can be very exhausting for users who live with motor skill-related disabilities. When designing for website accessibility, it’s important to limit the need for the user to be reliant upon using their mouse. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when designing accessible websites for people with motor skill-related disabilities:
- 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.
Form Design Considerations for Accessible Websites
When designing forms for users living with motor skill-related disabilities, consider the following:
- 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.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):