Accessibility for Motor Loss

Motor: Limited Fine Motor Control

Physical disabilities (sometimes called motor disabilities) include weakness, limitations of muscular control (such as involuntary movements including tremors, lack of coordination, or paralysis), limitations of sensation, joint problems (such as arthritis), pain that impedes movement, or missing limbs. Physical disabilities, that affects about 11% of adult Canadians can be a result of traumatic injuries, Spinal cord injury, Loss or damage of limb, Diseases and Congenital Conditions, Cerebral palsy, Muscular dystrophy, Multiple sclerosis, Spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), Arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. People with physical disabilities need an alternative to the mouse for input. Website developers must ensure the site is operable with a keyboard. Some of these input devices may be hands free devices like a head pointer to make selections, puff and sip morse code, voice recognition, eye tracking with virtual keyboard, and mouthstick. Over 11% of Canadian adults experienced one of the three most prevalent disability types; pain, mobility or flexibility. It is estimated about 9.7% Pain, 7.6% Flexibility, 7.2% Mobility, and 3.5% Dexterity. About 1% of people use a wheelchair or scooter as their primary mode of transportation.

It is easy to assume that people with speech impediments don’t encounter challenges on the Web given the Web is thought of as a visual medium. However, an obvious area where people are challenged are voice-based services such in home devices including Alexa, Google Home, and voice control on mobile such as Siri, Google Voice, and Cortana. While these are great accessible alternatives for many disabled people, they are not for people with limited or no speech. Voice-based services are a good example of an accessible enhancement but one that should not be relied on alone. It is important to include multiple ways to do a task rather than limit it to just one way. Ensuring the alternative to voice-based services is accessible is key. For example, if a contact us page has a phone number and a contact us form the form must be accessible. If voice search is used on mobile apps there must be a text based search that is also accessible as well as multiple ways to find information through links.

Motor Challenges

Switch controls offer an alternative way to interact with digital content if using a mouse, keyboard, voice or gestures is not possible. People with limited or no upper body movement such as Repetitive Strain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease may use switch controls. However use is not limited to just people with limited movement. They are also highly beneficial to people with cognitive and learning difficulties. Given the number of different movements and senses we all have there are a wide variety of different types of switches to accommodate various needs.

  • Sip-and-puff switches which are triggered by sipping and puffing into a straw which then mimics tabbing and clicking.
  • Button switches which can be activated using the hand, foot or head. These can be single switches or multiple switches.
  • Camera switches which can be activated when tilting the head into a camera. Some mobile phones have this built into the accessibility settings.
  • Eye tracking, the process of measuring either the point of gaze (where one is looking) or the motion of an eye relative to the head.

People with limited dexterity can use speech recognition software. Speech recognition software enables spoken language to be translated into text and commands by computers and devices. When using speech recognition software it is possible to activate links, fill out forms, and activate buttons. It bypasses the need for a keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device. Like screen readers speech recognition software relies on the underlying code to navigate. Some common Underlying Code Issues are:

  • Unclear links and buttons – if a button lacks visible text a user will not know its name and how to activate it. Instead they will have to number links on a page and select the link by its number.
  • Lack keyboard access – if a user can not set focus on a button it can not be activated.
  • Illogical focus order – if the focus order is different from the visual order of a page it can confuse users and they can loos track of where focus is.
  • Missing or poor visible focus – when focus states are not clear it might not be possible to know where the current focus is.

Technology plays an increasing role in how we control our environment. The convenience of apps and devices that enable us to play music, switch on the TV, control the temperature, answer the door. What is convenience for some is essential for others. People with limited or no mobility/dexterity may rely on these apps and devices but if you have limited speech as well. People may have limited or no speech for a number of reasons:

  • Mutism, the inability to speak, may occur due to anxiety, brain injuries, or inability to hear and learn speech.
  • Speech impediments such as stuttering or Tourettes.
  • Degenerative disease such as Huntington’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
  • Being deaf or hard of hearing may also affect speech.
  • Temporary illness such as coughs or treatment such as chemo that can affect the throat and speech.
  • Situational impairments such as being in a noisy environment where a website or app can’t easily hear or distinguish voice or a quiet environment where it is not possible to be noisy such as in a library.

Motor Resources