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Physical in Diverse Abilities and Barriers, How People with Disabilities Use the Web

Accessibility: It's about people

Note: The examples given in this section are not a complete list of all disabilities or barriers.


To use digital technology, people with physical disabilities often use specialized hardware and software such as:

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 rely on keyboard support to activate functionality provided on web pages. They may need more time to type, click, or carry out other interactions, and they may type single keystrokes in sequence or use sticky keys rather than typing simultaneous keystrokes (“chording”) to activate commands. Such keystrokes include commands for special characters, shortcut keys, and to active menu items.

People with physical disabilities may have trouble clicking small areas and are more likely to make mistakes in typing and 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. People with cognitive and visual disabilities share many of these requirements.

Examples of physical disabilities

Examples of barriers for people with physical disabilities

Video: Diverse Abilities and Barriers - Physical

This video is also available on a W3C server: Video: Diverse Abilities and Barriers - Physical (file format: MP4, file size: 277MB).

Text Transcript with Description of Visuals

Audio Visual
How people with disabilities use digital technology; physical disabilities. How people with disabilities use digital technology: Physical disabilities
Physical disabilities affect how people move, including an inability to move, limited mobility, a lack of coordination, tremors and involuntary movement, pain that impedes movement, as well as missing and non-typical limbs. Collage of 3 people using their devices.
People who use a mouse might have difficulty with fine motor control. Man seated at desk uses his laptop.
For example, tremors, non-typical joints, pain, or fatigue can prevent people from being able to select small targets, such as small links, buttons, and controls. Man is using trackpad with visible hand tremor. He uses a website where a checkbox can only be selected by clicking the checkbox square, which is difficult to do.
Websites and apps with large clickable areas around checkboxes, radio buttons, and other controls, are easier to use for people with limited mobility and reduced dexterity. He now uses a different website that allows selecting the text label next to a radio button and checkbox, rather than solely the radio button circle and checkbox square.
Other people use speech input instead. While speech input uses the keyboard interface in the background, websites and apps that are programmed and designed with consideration for speech input are more effective. For example, when the name of a button in the code matches the name displayed visually, people using speech input know what they need to say to click that button. “Click send email.” Man in wheelchair sits at a desk as he dictates an email message using his laptop.
Some people do not use a mouse, touch screen, or other pointing devices. They might use specialized keyboards with larger keys, or more space between the keys. Some use tools such as a mouthstick or headstick to type. Man with irregular hand movement uses a keyboard with large keys to type.
Websites and apps that make functions visibly clear with active focus styles and usable with keyboard only are easier to use for people with physical disabilities. Website for entering shipping information has clear visual outline around the currently focused field and typed letters appear at the pace of the man using the large keyboard.
Regardless of the input device used, websites and apps that provide sufficient time to type and to complete tasks are easier to use for people with physical disabilities because it might take people longer to navigate and type, and to correct typing mistakes. Man in wheelchair with non-typical limbs holds and uses tablet.
Providing clear headings and instructions helps people to understand the tasks and reduces the time needed to complete them. This includes instructions for forms and functionality, as well as error messages and dialogs. Web form is shown featuring large heading and instructions, clear labels, and clearly marked required fields. The man makes a selection from a dropdown.
Finally, websites and apps that work in both portrait and landscape orientation are easier to use for people who have their devices mounted to their wheelchair, desk, or bed. Man in wheelchair continues to use tablet.
You can help make technology accessible to me. Accessibility: It’s about people. Man in wheelchair speaks the phrase, “You can help make technology accessible to me,” then the view pans to collage of 12 people with different colored backgrounds.
For more information from the Web Accessibility Initiative on how people with disabilities use digital technology, visit Accessibility: It’s about people;
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This is an unpublished draft preview that might include content that is not yet approved. The published website is at