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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.

More about physical disabilities

To use the Web, people with physical disabilities often use specialized hardware and software such as:

  • Ergonomic or specially designed keyboard or mouse
  • Head pointer, mouth stick, and other aids to help typing
  • On-screen keyboard with trackball, joystick, and switches to operate it
  • Voice recognition, eye tracking, and other approaches for hands-free interaction

People with physical disabilities may be using a mouse or mouse-like device only, or keyboard or keyboard-like device only to operate the computer. People with physical disabilities need full keyboard support for all functionality provided on a web page. They may need more time to type, click, or carry out other interaction, and they may type single keystrokes in sequence rather than typing simultaneous keystrokes ("chording") to activate commands. This includes commands for special characters, shortcut keys, or to active menu items.

People with physical disabilities often have trouble clicking small areas and are more likely to make mistakes in typing or clicking. Providing large clickable areas, enough time to complete tasks, and error correction options for forms are important design aspects. Other important design aspects include providing visible indicators of the current focus, and mechanisms to skip over blocks, such as over page headers or navigation bars. Many of these requirements are shared by people with cognitive, neurological, and visual disabilities.

Examples of physical disabilities

  • Amputation and deformity - includes missing fingers, limbs, or other parts of the human body
  • Arthritis (previously called "rheumatism") - inflammation, degeneration, or damage of the joints
  • Fibromyalgia (previously called "rheumatism") - chronic pain of muscle and connective tissues
  • Rheumatism - typically refers to arthritis and other causes for bone or joint pain, and sometimes to fibromyalgia and other causes for muscular and other soft tissue pain
  • Reduced dexterity - is a functional term (rather than a medical condition) that describes the ability to control the hand, such as hand-eye coordination of people with cognitive and neurological disabilities
  • Muscular dystrophy - progressive weakness and degeneration of muscles, including in arms and hands
  • Repetitive stress injury (RSI) (also called "repetitive motion disorder" (RMD) and "cumulative trauma disorder" (CT)) - involves injuries to the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, tendons, and other connective tissues) and the nervous system from repetitive tasks and damage
  • Tremor and spasms - involuntary movement or muscle contraction, including short twitches, and continual or rhythmic muscle contractions
  • Quadriplegia (sometimes called "tetraplegia") - partial or total paralysis (includes motor control and sensation) to all four body limbs (legs and arms) and the torso

Examples of barriers for people with physical disabilities

  • Websites, web browsers, and authoring tools that do not provide full keyboard support
  • Insufficient time limits to respond or to complete tasks, such as to fill out online forms
  • Controls, including links with images of text, that do not have equivalent text alternatives
  • Missing visual and non-visual orientation cues, page structure, and other navigational aids
  • Inconsistent, unpredictable, and overly complex navigation mechanisms and page functions
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