People with diverse abilities

Contents of this post

  1. Introduction
  2. Visual
  3. Auditory
  4. Motor
  5. Cognitive

Accessibility is not just for people with disabilities, it is for everyone. Many of us may find ourselves in temporary or situational limitations – on how we use and access content on the web.

By creating solutions for users with a permanent disability, we are also helping the users with temporary, situational disability or users with changing abilities due to age to benefit.

There are four major categories of disabilities/ impairments that affect people accessing the web. Let’s discuss the permanent, temporary and situational disabilities in each type.


Fig.1 – Visual Impairments – Examples illustrating Permanent (Blindness or Low vision), Temporary (Recovering form eye surgery), Situational limitations (Bright light sensitivity).

Permanent Visual disabilities

  • Low vision – mild to moderate vision loss in one or both eyes.
  • Complete Blindness – uncorrectable vision loss in both eyes.
  • Color Blindness – the inability to distinguish a few colors or inability to perceive any color.
  • Due to aging, illness – low vision or a permanent loss of vision due to aging or illness. Example Glaucoma.

Temporary Visual Disabilities

Some people may experience temporary visual impairments due to medications, accident or recovering from an eye surgery.

Situational Visual Disability

Some visual impairments can be situational like

  • Extreme Brightness – under bright sunlight.
  • High Light Sensitivity – dilated eyes after the eye test.
  • A situation like reading without contact lens or glasses.


Fig.2 – Auditory Impairments – Examples illustrating Permanent(Deafness or Hard of Hearing), Temporary (Ear pain or ear infection), Situational limitations (Accessing audio-visuals in train)

Permanent Auditory Impairment

  • Hard of hearing – mild or moderate hearing impairments in one or both ears.
  • Deafness – substantial, uncorrectable impairment of hearing in both ears.
  • Deaf-blindness – substantial, uncorrectable hearing and visual impairments.

Temporary Auditory Impairments

Examples of temporary hearing impairments

  • Ear pain or ear infection
  • Recovering from an ear surgery
  • Swimmer’s ears

Situational Auditory limitations

Some of us may face situational auditory limitations in our day to day life. examples:

  • Accessing audio-visual content like news videos, TV series in crowded places like trains, restaurants.
  • Viewing a TV Series in a new language.


Fig.3 – Motor or Physical Disabilities – Examples illustrating Permanent (Missing limbs), Temporary (Broken arm, Situational limitations (Parent working with one arm)

Motor disability is any physical condition that makes it difficult for a person to move around, coordinate and control the body movements. A physical disability could be inherited by birth or caused due to illness, an accidental injury, or aging.

Permanent Motor or Physical Impairment

A permanent physical condition that severely impacts someone from performing their daily routines like mobility, work, self-care, etc. some of them include

1. Involuntary movements, lack of sensation or motor control, or degeneration of muscles that include

  • Tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease

2. Lack of hand and eye coordination.

  • Reduced dexterity

3. Joint disorders, chronic pain of joins and muscles that impedes movement, and missing limbs.

  • Arthritis 
  • Rheumatism 
  • Amputation

Temporary Physical Impairment

Inability to perform some physical tasks for a short period of time.

  • Accidental injury – broken arm or leg
  • limitations to move after surgery.

Situational Physical Limitations

Example of situational disability

  • Parent working with a baby in one arm.


Fig.4 – Cognitive Disabilities – Examples illustrating Permanent (Dyslexia or ADHD), Temporary (Distress or Medication), Situational limitations (Learning a new Language)

Cognitive disabilities cover a wide spectrum of conditions and disorders which may include memory, learning, language, neurological, behavioral or mental health disorders.

The cognitive disabilities may affect any part of the nervous system which has a significant impact on how well people hear, see, speak, move, how well they perceive and understand information. However, cognitive disabilities do not necessarly reflect or impact the intelligence of a person. 

Permanent Cognitive Disabilities

1. Inability to focus on a single task, being easily distracted, short attention spans.

  • ADHD – Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

2. Learning, Perceptual Disabilities which involves difficulty processing auditory, visual, or other sensory information.

  • Dyslexia – difficulty in reading
  • Dysgraphia – difficulty in writing
  • Dyscalculia – difficulty in processing numbers

3. Lack of interaction abilities, restricted habits, and impaired social interaction.

  • ASD – Autism spectrum disorder
  • PDD – Pervasive developmental disorder

4. Mental health disabilities – Some behavioral or mental health disorders may cause difficulty in focusing, processing information or understanding it.

  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Delirium or hallucinations
  • Paranoia

5. Memory impairments – Decreased ability to think to remember or recall which could be for a short period of time or long term.

  • Dementia
  • TGA – Transient global amnesia

6. Neurological Disorders

  • Multiple sclerosis – causes damage to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Seizure disorders – which include epilepsy, blackouts, and migraines, which could be triggered due to flickering visual content or audio signals at certain frequencies.

Temporary Cognitive or Neurological Disabilities

Examples – Short term conditions of anxiety and depression, migraines etc.

Usually, the medications used to treat some mental, Psychological, Neurological disorders have side effects like

  • Blurred vision
  • Hand tremors
  • Difficulty to recall or remember

Situational Cognitive or Learning Disabilities

Examples –

  • Difficulty in focusing due to a headache.
  • Stressful day
  • Learning a new language

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About Rupa Bandaru

My name is Rupa Bandaru, Digital Accessibility Consultant by profession. I have been working in the Accessibility space for a decade now (testing and auditing) digital content. I am very passionate about Accessibility & Inclusive Design and strive towards improving and making web content that is usable by all.

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