Physical disabilities 101

Physical disabilities include any limitations of muscular control, any pain that has an impact on movement, missing limbs, and others. In some cases, physical disabilities can even be temporary. Those who have physical challenges may use a wide variety of tools to help them access websites and apps. These tools may include alternative input devices like switch systems, one-handed keyboards, or head mice. They may also include technologies like voice control and dictation. However, users of all of these access tools have several concerns in common. 

Illustration: Profile shot of user with headphones

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“It is rare that a user with a physical challenge will use one tool, and one tool only.  Instead, depending on the situation and task, users with physical challenges will mix and match tools to pick the best tool for the job.”

Web accessibility considerations

  • Keyboard access: Many users with physical challenges lack the ability to use a mouse. It is extremely important for users of voice dictation, and other alternative input methods, that all controls on a website are keyboard accessible.
  • Timing: It may take longer to complete tasks. It is important to ensure that if a session expires, or there are timing limitations, a user can restart, or continue, without losing any work they’ve done.
  • Focus indication: It is important that the currently focused element is clearly indicated visually, in order to help users understand what control has the focus, and what they’re currently interacting with.
  • Large focus targets: users who have difficulty with hand-eye coordination may have difficulty clicking on