So what is a motor impairment?
A motor impairment is where someone has trouble with either their gross motor control, such as walking. Otherwise with their fine motor control such as writing, typing, picking up objects, tying shoe laces etc.
What are the range of motor impairments?
Motor impairments can be caused through degenerative disorders, so become worse over time and use. Some impairments are through genetics or complications at birth. Otherwise they can be temporary impairments through injury or strain, such as RSI (repetitive strain injury) or a broken bone(s).
What are the characteristics of a motor impairment?
There are impairments which affect the joints which impact on fine motor skills such as arthritis. This can get worse depending on age, gender (females more than males) and body weight.
Another major motor impairment is back pain due to muscle strain or displacement of discs. This tends to be more frequent as you get older and can affect your ability to work longer hours and gross motor functions such as sitting or standing for long periods of time. A common injury through using a computer with poor ergonomics is RSI which makes using a computer for long periods of time very challenging.
Some impairments begin at birth, are genetic or causes are currently unknown such as Cerebral palsy, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. The symptoms for each of these are varied and complex, but all affect fine and/or gross motor control through tremors, rigidity, jerky movements and walking.
What is the prevalence of motor impairments?
Overall in Australia the prevalence of motor impairments is estimated at 11%, however this includes a wide range of disorders, some which may or may not significantly affect computer use.
One of the main contributors to this statistic however is arthritis, which affects around 15% of the population in Australia. This percentage is higher as not everyone with arthritis is considered to have a disability. While this mostly affects people who are older, with nearly 50% of people over 65 having arthritis, it can begin a lot earlier with 1% of people developing before the age of 25.
The next main contributor is back pain affecting around 3% of the population with the majority of people being affected being over 45.
How does this impact their computer use?
Someone who has difficulty with fine motor skills may have trouble using a mouse, typing or sitting for long periods of time (if at all) and pressing areas with precision on a touch device. It is therefore important to have large areas to click or touch, as well as having everything accessible through keyboard (some peoples preferred option anyway). Finally to have a quick, easy interface with no or few time restrictions as it may take them a little longer.