5 Tips to Improve the Web for Mobility/Dexterity Disabilities

Imagine … you are right-handed and you just broke your right wrist. You're a programmer: how in the world will you get any work done?

Mobility impairment is a broad category of physical disabilities that include upper limb and manual dexterity disabilities, loss of fine-motor control, and disabling conditions such as cerebral palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome. The disabilities may be temporary  or permanent; they may range in severity from mild loss of fine-motor control to quadraplegia; they may be the consequence of aging, accident, heredity, disease. Users may have limited arm or hand movement, use just one hand, have a tremor, have difficulty with fine movements, or be unable  to hold a mouse.

Not surprisingly, given the range of mobility/dexterity disabilities, a wide variety of assistive technologies are available for these users, including touch screens, head / mouth wands, special switches, keyboard overlays, one-handed keyboards, oversized mouse or trackball, and speech recognition applications like Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Of importance to building accessible website is the fact that many of these tools rely on keyboard accessibility.

Tips to improve web accessibility

  1. Ensure all functions can be accessed with the keyboard.
  2. Use a logical tab order (left to right, top to bottom or as appropriate for locale).
  3. Provide methods such as a skip link to navigate over menus and navigation bars.
  4. Be careful with the use of shortcut keys as many of them conflict with assistive devices or browser functions.  Avoid the use of single keystroke access keys as these interfere with speech input for Dragon Naturally Speaking users.
  5. Provide logical and standard keyboard commands for interacting with the product.

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