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How to Plan for Disabled Users on Computers and Mobile Devices (Overview)


I get it that you are busy. You may not have thought about accessibility because you are thinking about #allthethings required to get your website or app to a place where it’s deliverable and usable. Totally understandable. That’s why I am breaking all this down into several digestible parts for you to take a look at when you have time.

Accessibility is constantly on my mind all the time, but not because it’s the right thing to do. It’s because I want to. I am reminded of accessibility when my brother is attempting to use his iPhone. My brother (an adult) has cognitive disorders that keeps him from being able to access information easily on the web. I cringe when he opens an app and tries to use it but usually ends up getting help most of the time.

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of March 2015, there were 321.4 million people in the U.S. (dang, that’s a lot!) Did you know most studies find 64.3 million (or 20%) of the entire United States population has some kind of disability? That is a lot of people with disabilities that may issues accessing your web site or mobile app.

Disabilities at a Glance

Are you a designer, user experience, or developer that has missed planning and prepping a product for people with disabilities? It’s easy to forget unless you know someone or if you are included in the population of these disabilities mentioned below.

There are five (5) main disability groups according to the Web Accessibility Initiative:


There are 36.2 million people in the U.S. with physical disabilities.

Examples of physical disabilities (layman’s terms for now):

  • Missing body parts
  • Joint inflammation, damage, and pain
  • Lack of hand or eye coordination
  • Weak or degeneration of muscles
  • Injury to bones, joints, tendons, tissues
  • Twitches, spasms, or involuntary movements
  • Paralysis (partial or full)



There are 40.3 million people in the U.S. with hearing disabilities.

Examples of hearing disabilities:

  • Hard of hearing
  • Deafness



There are 16 million people in the U.S. with cognitive disabilities.

Examples of cognitive disabilities:

  • Inability to focus on single tasks
  • Social and interaction communication issues
  • Impairment of intelligence
  • Difficulty focusing, processing, or understanding information
  • Short or long-term memory issues
  • Visual flickering or audio signals at certain frequencies or patterns



There are 7.5 million people in the U.S. with speech disabilities.

Examples of speech disabilities:

  • Inconsistent articulation and speech sounds
  • Fast speaking rate, incorrect rhythm, intonation, etc.
  • Weakness or complete paralysis of muscles related to speech
  • Difficulty to make certain sounds or patterns of sounds
  • Repetition of individual sounds or entire words and phrases
  • Inability to speak (from anxiety, brain injuries, or inability to hear and learn speech)



There are 21.7 million people in the U.S. with vision disabilities.

Examples of vision disabilities:

  • Difficulty distinguishing between colors
  • Poor, tunnel, central field loss, and clouded vision
  • Blindness


In Conclusion

I hope just by those statistics above and basic disability information above has piqued your interest in accessibility. ? In the coming articles, I will break down each of these five disability groups into digestable parts with examples of what to avoid when working on a user interface.

Up Next: How to Plan for Visually Disabled Users on Computers and Mobile Devices


Statistic References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Cognitive Impairment: A Call for Action, Now! (Opens a PDF)

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services