Guideline 4: Provide options for physical action

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A textbook or workbook in a print format provides limited means of navigation or physical interaction (e.g. by turning pages with fingers, handwriting in spaces provided). Many interactive pieces of educational software similarly provide only limited means of navigation or interaction (e.g. via dexterously manipulating a joystick or keyboard). Navigation and interaction in those limited ways will raise barriers for some students – those who are physically disabled, blind, dysgraphic, or who have various kinds of executive function disorders. It is important to provide materials with which all students can interact. Properly designed curricular materials provide a seamless interface with common assistive technologies through which individuals with motor disabilities can navigate and express what they know – to allow navigation or interaction with a single switch, through voice activated switches, expanded keyboards and others.

4.1 Options in the mode of physical response

Students differ widely in their motor capacity and dexterity. To reduce barriers to learning that would be introduced by the differential motor demands of a particular task, provide alternative means for response, selection, and composition.


  • Provide alternatives in the requirements for rate, timing, amplitude and range of motor action required to interact with instructional materials, physical manipulatives, and technologies
  • Provide alternatives for physically responding or indicating selections among alternatives (e.g. alternatives to marking with pen and pencil, to mouse control)

4.2 Options in the means of navigation

Students differ widely in their optimal means for navigating through information and activities. To provide equal opportunity for interaction with learning experiences, ensure that there are multiple means for navigating so that navigation and control is accessible to all students.


  • Provide alternatives for physically interacting with materials:
  • by hand
  • by voice
  • by single switch
  • by joystick
  • by keyboard or adapted keyboard

4.3 Options for accessing tools and assistive technologies

Significant numbers of students consistently use assistive technologies for navigation, interaction, and composition. It is critical that instructional technologies and curricula not impose inadvertent barriers to the use of these assistive technologies that would interfere with instructional progress. An important design consideration, for example, is to ensure that there are keyboard commands for any mouse action so that students can use common assistive technologies that depend upon those commands. It is also important, however, to ensure that making a lesson physically accessible does not inadvertently remove its challenge to learning. The goal is not to make answers physically accessible, but to make the learning that underlies those answers accessible.


  • Keyboard commands for mouse action
  • Switch options
  • Alternative keyboards
  • Customized overlays for touch screens and keyboards

5 Responses to Guideline 4: Provide options for physical action

  1. Jeff Steward says:

    This article is right on. I had a student in Highschool who could not read very well, but he could build a motor in shop like no other. He was good on computers to because he used electronics at home. I started using my computer more with him and he started doing things he normally couldnt do in books, on paper etc. I love this and have seen how it helps.

  2. Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is a lot more than I expected for when I found a link on Digg telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  3. Cam Caldwell says:

    Keyboard is the only real touch-based learning tool in online learning . . . I think. Got any other ideas?

    I use URL sites for students. For example, with my Leadership class I played Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to emphasize the importance of leaders “inspiring a shared vision.”

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