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  7. Physical and Motor Disabilities

Physical and Motor Disabilities


Physical and Motor disabilities include weakness, muscle control limitations (including tremors, coordination issues, involuntary movements, and paralysis), limitations of sensation, joint problems, pain that impedes movement, or missing limbs 1.

People with physical or motor disabilities often use specialized hardware and software including specially-designed keyboards or mice, head pointers, mouth sticks, or other aids to typing, on-screen keyboards, voice recognition, eye-tracking, and and other approaches to hands-free interaction 1. They may also use on-screen keyboards with trackballs, joysticks, or other pointing devices 2.

Examples of disabilities

Physical and motor disabilities may include 2:

Design considerations


  • Ensure actions are large and clickable 3.
  • Give clickable elements space 3.
  • Design for a person who can only use the keyboard or speech 3.
  • Design with mobile and touchscreen use in mind 3.
  • Provide shortcuts that make the app easier to use 3.
  • Provide the ability to access everything through a keyboard, in case that’s the only access the user has 4.
  • Provide visible indicators of the current focus state for links, buttons and controls 4.
  • Warn users before session timeouts or other timed events and provide the option to extend the time 4.
  • Provide error correction options for forms 2.
  • Provide clearly visible focus indicators, skip links, and other navigation tools 2.


  • Don’t build websites, web browsers, or authoring tools that lack full keyboard support 2.
  • Don’t neglect text alternatives for controls such as buttons or links containing images 2.
  • Don’t build complex, inconsistent, unpredictable navigation structures that lack orientation cues or other navigational aids 2.
  • Require precise movements or small click areas 3.
  • Bunch interactions together 3.
  • Create dynamic components that requires a lot of mouse movement like complex menus 3.
  • Force the user to deal with short time-out windows 3.
  • Tire people out with lots of typing and scrolling 3.

Assistive technology

People with physical disabilities are likely to use assistive technology. Examples include:

Additional resources

  1. Diverse Abilities and Barriers by the WAI[][]
  2. Diverse Abilities and Barriers by the WAI[][][][][][][]
  3. Dos and Don’ts on designing for accessibility by Karwei Pun at Gov.UK[][][][][][][][][][]
  4. Accessibility Fundamentals – Disabilities, Guidelines, and Laws at Deque University[][][]