People living with a motor skill disability may have full, limited, or no use of their hands and arms. This may also include people who experience shaking or hand and arm tremors. People living with motor skill disabilities have various Nontraditional Mouse device options that they can use to move the cursor around the computer screen.
Some of the more common types of assistive technologies for people living with a motor skill disability are:
Sip and Puff Switch
Sip and Puff Switches are able to interpret user’s breath actions as on/off signals. The puff switch is placed in the mouth, as the person sips or blows, a switch connected at the other end goes off or on. Using the assistive device in combination with Software extends the functionality of this device. Sip and puff switches can be used for a variety of purposes, from controlling a wheelchair to navigating a computer.
A mouth stick is a stick that is placed into the mouth. Typically there is a rubber tip at the end of the mouth stick to provide the tip with better traction and a plastic or rubber feature at the other end that a person inserts into the mouth.
A head wand is similar in function to a mouth stick, except that the mouth stick is strapped to the head. With a head wand, a person moves their head to make the head wand type characters and navigate websites.
Developing for Motor Skill-Related Disabilities
When you are designing websites for the needs of people living with motor skill-related disabilities, it’s important to keep in mind that they may have limited, or no, fine motor skills. 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.
General Design Considerations
- 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 check boxes larger than you may normally make them, to ensure that they can be easily selected.
- Consider inserting options to open up new pages and forms in nontraditional ways, such as embedding them into a graphic.
Nondependent Mouse Design Considerations
When designing websites, it’s also important to limit the need for the user to be reliant upon using their mouse. Mouse-dependent websites, forms and software products can be very exhausting for users who live with motor skill-related disabilities.
- Avoid the use of long drop-down menus in navigation bars. It is recommended to keeping the options in navigation bar menus to under 5 selections.
- Drop down menus on forms should also be similarly limited.
- 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.
Form Design Considerations
When designing forms for users living with motor skill disabilities, consider the following:
- If at all 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 to the user.
- Fields within forms should tab in order, eliminating the need for the user to use a mouse to advance them.
- Fields and buttons should also be large enough to make them easy to select for individuals with hand tremors, or for users who have difficulty controlling their hands and arms.