Conducting research with participants with a motor impairment


person with motor impairment indicated by knee painStraightforward tips to optimise your research

Here’s the 4thpiece in our series offering guidance on conducting research with people with various access needs. We take a look at research issues raised by a motor impairment.

In this article we’re looking at research considerations for participants with a motor impairment. Examples of those included in this group are people with an upper limb impairment (e.g. severe arthritis in their hands), paralysis and tremors.

A note on assistive technologies

Users with motor impairments may use only the keyboard to navigate through a website, or alternative input devices such as joy sticks, eye gazing software or sip ‘n’ puff devices, if they are unable to use a conventional mouse and keyboard. They may also use speech-to-text software.

Using a keyboard alone or other assistive technologies successfully relies on the code of the website. Therefore, although it is valuable to include these users in discovery research, when conducting user testing, it is worth considering to only include these users once the code has been fully developed, so that they are able to engage with the prototype properly.

Tips when conducting research with participants with a motor impairment

  • Ensure that the research space is physically accessible
    Some users with motor impairments may be in a wheelchair or use walking aides. It’s therefore important that the space where the research is being conducted has step free access, and that it’s big enough for someone with walking aides or a wheelchair to move around comfortably.
  • Adapt co-creation activities
    Activities might involve hands on activities, such as cutting out pictures or text and creating collages, or making drawings. These tasks may involve fine motor skills which are difficult to complete for users with motor impairments. It’s therefore important to ensure that there are alternative activities which are also accessible to those who do not have fine motor controls.
  • Have clear tasks and indicators of success
    For participants with a severe mobility impairment, for example, someone who uses an eye tracker to interact and communicate with others, it may be preferable to rely more heavily on observational data. It’s therefore important to have clear tasks with clear indicators of success at the end of tasks, so that you can easily evaluate whether the tasks were completed successfully, based on observations alone.

person with elbow motor impairmentMaking digital products more accessible

Our expert consultants are passionate about ensuring that digital products are made more accessible to everyone. The team brings a range of experience, including conducting research with users with a broad range of impairments. Please do get in touch if you think we can help!

Speech bubbleGet help running research with people with a motor impairment

Contact our friendly, experienced team of UX and accessibility specialists

Links to the other 4 articles in this series:

Conducting research with participants with disabilities

Conducting research with participants with an auditory impairment

Conducting research with neuro-diverse participants