International FND Awareness Day 2018 is celebrated in April. The goal of this day is to raise consciousness of and funding for Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). The term “FND” encapsulates a number of different disorders of the nervous system, with a diverse array of symptoms and impairments. Signs of FND may include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic pain
- Sensory loss
- Speech problems
- Problems with gait and balance
- Fatigue, headaches, and migraines
- Paralysis and weakness
Although FND can be as debilitating as other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, it receives much less attention. Similarly, web accessibility initiatives often concentrate on visual and hearing impairments while placing less emphasis on other types of disabilities.
In this article, we’ll go over why web accessibility is so important for people with motor and cognitive impairments such as FND, and how websites can make efforts to include them.
The Importance of Web Accessibility for People with FND
Making websites more accessible to people with vision and hearing impairments should involve a couple of fairly well-understood tasks: improve the site’s compatibility with screen readers, and add closed captions to pre-recorded videos.
Cognitive and neurological disorders, on the other hand, encompass a wide range of symptoms and difficulties. Users with these disorders may have challenges remembering or understanding information, reading long passages of text, navigating the site, or making controlled movements.
In order to successfully use a website, people with motor and cognitive disabilities rely on predictability and regularity. The site’s content should be clearly and consistently structured and labeled. In addition, the user should be able to turn off distracting content, such as autoplay videos and flashing text.
FND and WCAG 2.0
The widely used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 provide a standard set of metrics by which a website may be judged to be “accessible.” WCAG 2.0 organizes its guidelines based on challenges that users might face in one of five domains: auditory, cognitive and neurological, physical, speech, and visual.
As such, WCAG 2.0 includes many recommendations that are useful for web designers and developers who want to accommodate neurological disorders such as FND. A few of the most relevant WCAG guidelines include:
- Hard time limits on content must be avoided unless absolutely necessary, such as a real-time auction website. In the case where frequent updates are desirable, such as a website for sports scores, the user must be allowed to adjust or extend the length of the update.
- The website should be fully usable via the keyboard, without any “keyboard trap” elements that prevent the user from redirecting focus to another element.
- Website elements should not change when they receive focus or when the user enters input. For example, a form should not automatically skip to the next field when the user enters data, and should not automatically submit the user’s answers.
- All elements such as form fields are properly labeled, with instructions where necessary.
As people around the world share their stories on FND Awareness Day 2018, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility is proud to raise awareness about how website owners can improve accessibility for people with FND and other neurological disorders. Visit the BoIA blog for the latest news and information about web accessibility for people with motor and cognitive disabilities, or schedule a free consultation with one of our expert accessibility consultants.