What You Need To Know About Web Accessibility For People With Parkinson’s

Riley Barry

People with Parkinson’s experience challenges in life like no other, including how they use the internet. Navigating the internet might be a simple task for most people, but it can be incredibly difficult for those with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s is a motor-cognitive disability. So, things like hand tremors make it difficult for people with the disease to do simple tasks like moving a mouse around the screen or using a keyboard.

Parkinson’s makes interacting with small website elements or even elements that are close together hard and sometimes impossible. It often leads to clicking the wrong link or selecting the wrong website.

The dementia aspect of Parkinson’s can also affect some people’s memory, reasoning, and problem-solving, which will only add to their difficulties online.

Often people with Parkinson’s will go through the effort of going online only to forget what they need to do. They can also become confused by complex websites and get frustrated when they can’t figure out what they have to do.

Many people with Parkinson’s choose to avoid interacting with their computers and instead use voice recognition software to search the web. Some also use large, oversized keyboards or ‘keyguards’ that help prevent any typing mishaps.

These are just a few ways people with Parkinson’s have difficulty accessing the web and browsing websites. There are a lot of other issues they can run into online too. By making your website accessible for people with Parkinson’s, you’ll be able to make their experience a whole lot better.

Today we’re going to look at what website accessibility is and how you can design your website to be more accessible for people with Parkinson’s disease.

What is website accessibility?

Before we discuss how to make a website accessible for people with Parkinson’s disease, we should discuss what makes a website accessible overall.

Digital accessibility is a term used to describe the methods that are used to help people with disabilities access digital content as quickly as somebody without a disability. This includes accessing the internet, browsing social media and scrolling through websites.

People who have disabilities use a range of assistive devices to help make their internet experience easier. This includes screen readers, magnifiers, voice-to-text software, and more.

To help people with disabilities browse the internet without issues, you should ensure your website works with assistive technology. Make your website and content available to those out there who wouldn’t be able to connect with it without the help of assistive technology.

The importance of web accessibility for people with Parkinson’s disease

Technology and the internet has vastly improved over the years and have made our lives and the lives of others a lot easier. You can buy anything you want online with a simple button – it’s incredible!

However, we’re still learning how to use this technology to include as many people as possible. We’re still building new ways to make the internet accessible.

Those with Parkinson’s disease experience many challenges when using the internet, and it’s not always obvious. Unless you have a motor or cognitive disability, some of these challenges might not have crossed your mind.

For example, hand tremors caused by Parkinson’s make it very difficult to use a mouse or keyboard. We use a mouse and keyboard like it’s second nature, and most people don’t even consider that some people would have difficulty with it.

Sometimes people with Parkinson’s might even have difficulty interacting with some aspects of a website. These aspects seem simple and easy for us, but for others, it might be a complicated task.

For example, they could struggle with:

  • Small buttons
  • Features that are close to each other
  • Awkward links
  • Unclear navigation bar

These issues can cause them to click the wrong thing and make finding what they want difficult.

Even a poorly designed navigation bar can cause havoc for somebody with a disability. It might be hard to click on the pages, or it might just be confusing to look at, which can cause a lot of frustration.

What challenges do people with Parkinson’s face when it comes to browsing the web

There are over 10 million people worldwide who are living with Parkinson’s disease. So, you’re not just helping a small number of people access the web you’re helping a lot more.

There are a lot of challenges that people with Parkinson’s face but today let’s take a closer look at two of the most common issues people with Parkinson’s face when accessing the internet.

1. Hand tremors and browsing the web

The most significant problem people with Parkinson’s face is attempting to engage with a website and struggling due to design flaws.

For example, their hand tremors make it difficult to touch targets on their phones. If there isn’t enough space between the touch targets, they’ll struggle to click the links they want.

Users with Parkinson’s need unclickable space between touch targets. This is so their fingers can scroll through your website without clicking on a link or button.

Why is this so important?

Unintentional clicks happen all the time, especially on touch screens. Fine motor control helps you place your finger on the right part of the screen and move it in the right direction.

But, people with Parkinson’s don’t have excellent motor control. So they will have difficulty scrolling unless they have access to plenty of white space.

What’s the solution?

The solution to this is simple, add a bit of unclickable space between the touch targets on each page.

2. Dementia and browsing the web

Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect motor function it also affects memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. This causes problems when trying to access information online.

People with dementia often forget what they are doing and even how to use smart devices or computers. Because of this, many people with Parkinson’s who also develop memory issues can become confused when visiting complex websites.

Why is this so important?

If a person with Parkinson’s visits your website for a specific reason but, while on your website, is confused by complex text, jargon or a poorly laid out website, they will forget what they were looking for.

They’ll get frustrated and leave your website without interacting with anything. They also might never come back to your website or, worse, be discouraged from interacting with anything online.

What’s the solution?

The solution to this problem is also simple. Create easy-to-understand content, build a website with a simple and clear design and make sure that everything your visitor needs is easily accessible from the home or landing page.

How do you make your website accessible to people with Parkinson’s?

Web experts have developed what’s known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to help people with disabilities and motor diseases like Parkinson’s access and use the internet.

If you want your website to be considered accessible, then you have to become compliant with all the guidelines.

Here are the guidelines you should follow if you want to make your website accessible for people with Parkinson’s:

  • Your website’s functionality should be accessible with the use of a keyboard without the need for specific individual keystrokes. So, for example, if a user moves onto a page element with a keyboard, they should also be able to move away from it.

  • Content must not be time-limited, or the user should be able to extend the time limit.

  • Your interface and navigation should always be consistent.

  • Multiple navigational elements, like a drop-down list, should always be in the same order on every page.

  • Input errors should be automatically detected by the website and indicated to the users.

  • Your website should provide suggestions for correcting errors.

  • Your buttons should be big enough to be clickable for somebody with hand tremors.

  • Your website shouldn’t auto-play videos or audio as it can confuse the user.

  • You should make sure your website can be used with assistive technology such as:

     – Screen readers

    – Text to speech

    – Speech input software

    – Screen magnification software

    – Alternative input devices like head pointers, motion tracking, eye tracking and single switch entry devices

If you’re following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, your website will be accessible to people with Parkinson’s disease and other disabilities.

We should all strive to make the web a fun and accessible place for everybody. With so much on the web, it would be unfair to exclude people from it just because of some simple website design choices.

Speaking of making the web fun – how’s your copy looking?

Your website design has to be accessible, but your content should also be accessible to the reader. Our team knows how to write accessible content for the web and would be delighted to work with you and your team.

If you want to take accessibility into account and improve your website, get in touch with our content team today to book a meeting. We’ll talk you through how you can make your content accessible with a team of professional content writers.


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