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Web Design for Physical Disabilities

written by: Summer Banks•edited by: Robin L.•updated: 11/18/2008

Physical disabilities are wide and varied. They range from temporary cases like a broken arm to the more severe cases like the quadriplegic sufferers who cannot use their limbs. The severity of a physical disability determines the accessibility that an individual may have to websites.

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    The common characteristics with all people suffering physical disability is the limited or non-ability to use a computer mouse. This in turn means that the users cannot access information that requires mouse or motor control use. Key principles to ensure easy access and usability during website design for people with physical disabilities:

    All Content Should Be Accessed Through the Keyboard

    Physically disabled users are unable or are limited in the use of a mouse and hence the only website navigation option available to them is the keyboard. Some mouse-dependent functions will no doubt pose problems for the keyboard users.

    Give A:Focus States to Links

    A:focus for the links is an important navigation detail for all keyboard users as they rely on it for all interaction when surfing the websites. This is the case where a different styled text is assigned to the link, such that colors and other aspects take on different forms upon receiving the tab focus. This makes it clear that there is a person trying to navigate the page. The link that is focus enabled is highlighted in color while that without focus capabilities remain in a grey shade.

    Give Evident Skip Links

    Skip links are particular link types that are evident when they get focus and help the disabled users a great deal. Since the keyboard user must keep tabbing in order to navigate the webpage to access the link that interests them, the skip link bypasses lengthy navigation by reducing the time that a user should press a key in order to activate links that are located in the main content page.

    Shun the Use of Moving Targets

    Moving targets like tickers pose challenges for the physically disabled users. This is because the users do not have the motor control and precision required to control the mouse and accurately click on the moving target. The keyboard users, on the other hand, are limited by the time required to focus and hit the moving target. Even when they try, the target often moves out of sight before the keyboard user can hit it.

    Use Large Clicking Areas

    Some physically disabled users use a mouse for website access, however, because their motor control is not as swift as their able-bodied counterparts are, the designers should consider using large text thus making links easier to click on. For enhanced use, the designer should provide enough blank spaces between links. This decreases the error likelihood common when the user clicks on the wrong link.

    Correct Controls and Image Links Naming

    With a voice-control program users are able to surf a website by mentioning words, which activate the matching links and controls. The results of the website rely very much on spoken words. It is therefore very important to ensure that image links and the form buttons are well coded in such a way that the spoken words match the page content displayed. In cases where words that have the same meaning are used, the voice recognition program will trigger results that have the specific word that was spoken. Such happens in words like ‘buy’ and ‘purchase’ among others.

Disabilities and Web Design

Not every Internet user has the same browsing abilities. Some users need special consideration when viewing websites based on physical disabilities.
  1. Disabilities and Web Design - Overview of a Web Development Series
  2. Web Design for the Hearing Impaired
  3. Web Design and Learning and Cognitive Disabilities
  4. Web Design for Physical Disabilities
  5. Web Design and Vision Impairment