Website Accessibility - Part 4

Making Your Website Accessible to the Physically Impaired

August 15, 2020

A physical disability is one where a person has muscle weakness or limited control over muscular movement, joint disorders, limited sensation, pain that impedes their movement, or missing limbs. You may think the ability of someone with a physical disability to use your website relies solely upon the hardware they purchase, and the setup they have in their home, but this is not the case. There are several things we should be doing as developers to ensure our websites are accessible to anyone that has a physical disability.

One of the biggest issues with website accessibility for people with physical disabilities is that many websites do not provide full key support. This is an issue for anyone who is unable to use a mouse and relies solely on keyboard navigation. Any user should be able to use the tab key to navigate a website. If they can't do this, it's not accessible to them. The easiest way for you to determine if your site has full keyboard support is to simply give it a go yourself by using your tab key to move from one clickable element to the next.

Another important thing to note about keyboard focus is that most browsers have a default focus for input fields. This default behavior is baked into browsers because people who navigate with keyboard only rely on this to easily identify where their cursor is when filling out forms. Unfortunately, some developers remove this by adding outline: none; to their css. Worst still, there are plenty of posts and YouTube videos floating around on the web outlining how to remove these default behaviors. Do not do this, unless you're unless you're planning to provide a better option than the default one provided by the browser.

Input with focus removed.

Input with focus for easy visibility when navigating via keyboard.

In addition to making sure your input fields are focused:
  • make sure you include visual and non-visual cues where they make sense.
  • structure your pages in a logical manner so that it easy for users to find what they are looking for.
  • don't put time restrictions on anything on your site that a user needs to interact with. Some websites have timeframes in which a user, for example, has to complete a form which is troublesome for some people with a physical disability.
  • keep your navigation consistent and simple.

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