Types of Disabilities and Assistive Technology | Accessibility

Expanding Your Definition of Accessibility

Sometimes we focus on a specific population that is in need of accessible content. However, there exists populations that we don’t consider that would also benefit from it. They include, but are not limited to, people with:

  • Permanent medical conditions
  • Temporary difficulties
  • Changing circumstances
  • Low reading levels
  • English as a second language
  • Unfamiliarity of icons and idioms
  • Slow network connection
  • Old browsers
  • Modifications to an Environment
    • Noisy Environment
    • Quiet Zones

Types of Disabilities


There are different kinds of visual impairments that we must take into consideration when designing for accessibility.

  1. Color Blindness – Color blindness is when the ability to see colors is impaired. The main types of color blindness are red and green or blue and yellow. Some people are unable to see any color. To make our content accessible, we need
    • High contrast and good color choices
    • Additional indication of a link, not just color
  2. Poor eyesight from age or medical issue – Poor eyesight is when one’s eyesight is blurry or have limitations in their visual field. To make our content accessible, we need 
    • Clear labels and appropriate font sizes
  3. Blindness – Blindness is when there is loss of eyesight in one or both eyes. To make our content accessible, we need
    • Text descriptions of images
    • Transcripts for videos
    • Correct heading structure


Auditory disabilities are hearing impairments that range from mild to complete loss of hearing.

  1. Deafness and Hard of Hearing – Deafness is substantial loss of hearing in both ears. Hard of hearing is the inability to hear well in at least one ear. To make our content accessible, we need
    • Audio alternatives to video
      • Closed caption
      • Transcripts
  2. Work in loud environments or quiet-zones – Sometimes, there will be instances when users are unable to listen to content due to environmental factors. To make our content accessible, we need
    • The ability to control volume or audio alternatives


Motor disabilities are physical impairments caused by varied muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or paralysis.

Temporary or Permanent Medical Conditions

Users with temporary or permanent medical conditions tend to use their keyboard instead of their mouse to navigate around a web page. Fine motor movements, which usually involve hand eye coordination, are difficult.

To make our content accessible, we need

  1. Large, clickable areas for buttons
  2. To be able to tab through menus and forms


Cognitive disabilities pertain to users who have memory, attention, and/or problem-solving issues. There are also learning and neurological disabilities which include neurological, behavioral, and mental health disorders.  It impacts the way people process and digest information.

To make our content accessible, we need

  1. Ways to easily identify what page users are currently on within a website
  2. To be able to tab through menus and forms

Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies are tools that are used to help a person with a disability perform a task.

Some common assistive technologies for web are:

  • Screen readers
    • It is software that reads aloud content that appears on the computer screen primarily for blind or visually impaired people
  • Braille keyboard
    • A keyboard with clear a braille label above each original key that allow low vision or blind users to do everyday tasks such as messaging or browsing the Internet.
  • Screen magnification
    • A software that enlarges text and graphics on a computer screen.
  • Text to Speech (TTS)
    • A software that reads text aloud to you. It only reads the text that appears on the screen and does not include menus, alt-text, or images. It is useful for people who have learning disabilities.
  • Closed Captioning
    • Series of subtitles that appear on the screen while a video/show/movie is being played

Go to: Getting Started: Web Accessibility