May 30 is World MS Day, created to increase awareness, solidarity, and hope for those affected by multiple sclerosis. The campaign for 2019 is “My Invisible MS” and the theme is Visibility, according to the World MS Day website.
The special goal of this year’s theme is to challenge common misconceptions and bring awareness to the invisible symptoms of MS and the impacts of those unseen symptoms on people’s everyday lives.
What is MS?
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society FAQs page:
“Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the CNS.”
The definition continues to say that, “damage in the central nervous system (CNS) interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.”
The cause of MS remains unknown; however, researchers believe there may be a combination of factors, including immunologic factors, environmental factors, infectious factors, and genetic factors. There are also several disproven theories, including environmental allergies, household pets, exposure to the heavy metals, and the artificial sweetener aspartame. You can learn more about what causes here.
What are the symptoms of MS?
MS symptoms are unpredictable and vary completely from person to person. Some may experience a few symptoms, some may experience many, and those symptoms may appear, disappear, reappear, or progressively worsen over time. And, as this year’s World MS Day theme points out, symptoms can often be invisible to others.
Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Walking difficulties
- Numbness or tingling
- Vision problems
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Bladder problems
- Sexual problems
- Bowel problems
- Pain and itching
- Cognitive changes
- Emotional changes
Some less common symptoms include:
- Speech problems
- Swallowing problems
- Breathing problems
- Hearing loss
The source of the symptoms cited is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society: MS Symptoms.
What does MS have to do with digital accessibility?
More than 2.3 million people worldwide are diagnosed with MS, including roughly 1 million U.S. adults. People often wonder how many individuals are really affected by inaccessible web experiences — as these numbers show, one disease is responsible for millions of known instances of lives whose ability to independently use the web, at one time or another, may be impacted.
Perhaps one of the most striking facts about MS to those learning about it is the vast variety of symptoms and the many ways different senses and abilities can be impaired or changed.
If you or someone you know may benefit from learning how to adapt your web browsing experience, please read or share the articles in this series:
- 3 Tips for Easier Web Browsing with Visual Disabilities
- 3 Tips for Easier Web Browsing with Hearing Disabilities
- 5 Tips for Browsing the Web without Traditional Keyboard Use
- 3 Tips for Browsing the Web If You Have Difficulty Using a Mouse
- 6 Tips for Browsing the Web with Cognitive Disabilities or If You Have Trouble Understanding Web Content
You may also find new ideas or avenues to explore in Free Accessibility Tools and Assistive Technology You Can Use Today.
What’s the best way to make websites and apps accessible for people with MS?
The best way to create accessible web experiences or to fix existing websites or apps is to combine manual and automated testing against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 A/AA and the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA 1.0). WCAG is the most widely-used standard in web accessibility because it covers a broad spectrum of disabilities and provides specific technical recommendations for meeting each checkpoint.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility is here to help. If you are ready to customize an accessibility compliance strategy to meet your organization’s needs or you just have a few questions for our accessibility experts, please contact us. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan.
Our hope is that the need for accessibility isn’t only talked about on awareness days, but that these days inspire real change. The time for accessibility is now.