On April 11th, people across the globe will mark World Parkinson’s Day, which seeks to raise awareness to the difficulties faced by people living with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones.
Parkinson’s disease was first described in detail by English doctor James Parkinson (whose birthday also fell on April 11th). The disease is a chronic degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, with symptoms including hand tremors, slow movements, rigid muscles, difficulty walking, and dementia.
It’s estimated that 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. including 1 million Americans. As one of the most common neurological disorders, Parkinson’s is a vital concern for web designers, developers, and all those who advocate for improved web accessibility.
The Importance of Web Accessibility for People with Parkinson’s Disease
Technology and the Internet have greatly improved the lives of millions of people around the world. However, it’s important that the designers and creators of this technology make strides to include as many people as possible in their visions.
People with Parkinson’s disease experience challenges using the Internet that aren’t always obvious to people without a motor or cognitive disability. For example, the hand tremors caused by Parkinson’s can make it hard for people to use a standard mouse or even a keyboard. The dementia present in some people with Parkinson’s can also cause a decline in their capabilities for memory, reasoning, and problem solving.
For people with Parkinson’s, interacting with small website elements, or elements that are very close to each other, may be difficult or impossible without accidentally activating the wrong control. As a result, many people with Parkinson’s choose to interact with their computer using voice recognition software. They may also use an oversized keyboard or a “keyguard,” a plastic or metal plate that sits on top of the keyboard and that prevents accidental mistypes.
Parkinson’s Disease and WCAG 2.0
Recognizing the challenges posed by impairments such as Parkinson’s disease and other disabilities, web accessibility experts have developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The most widely recognized standard for web accessibility, WCAG 2.0 establishes a set of standards at three different compliance levels that websites must follow in order to call themselves “accessible.”
WCAG 2.0 includes several metrics that are relevant for motor and cognitive disabilities such as Parkinson’s, including:
- The website’s functionality must be entirely accessible via the use of a keyboard, without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes. If users can move onto a page element via the keyboard, then they can also move away from it as well.
- Whenever possible, content must not be time-limited, or the user is able to extend or adjust the time limit.
- The website’s interface and navigation are consistent across pages. Multiple navigational elements, such as the order of pages in a drop-down list, are always repeated in the same order.
- Any input errors automatically detected by the website are indicated to the user, and the website provides suggestions for correcting the errors.
The Bureau of Internet Access is proud to support World Parkinson’s Day by bringing attention to issues surrounding web accessibility for people with Parkinson’s disease. You can also find out if your company is falling behind in the push for web accessibility by trying out our free accessibility scan.