Accessibility and Alternative Input Devices

With the prominence of technology throughout all aspects of day-to-day living, digital accessibility is not just a convenience, it's a necessity. As the internet becomes increasingly integral to peoples’ daily lives, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, can access and interact with digital content is paramount.

This commitment to inclusivity has led to the development and widespread use of alternative input devices. These innovative tools are life-changing for many individuals with disabilities, providing them with the autonomy and capability to explore and engage with the digital world on their terms. From Braille displays to speech recognition software, the following examples of commonly-used alternative input devices continue to open up a world of expanding possibilities. They can effectively break down barriers and pave the way toward a more inclusive digital world.

Person using a braille display with a computer keyboard on a wooden desk


Commonly-Used Alternative Input Devices Making Websites Accessible

Alternative input devices are designed for individuals who have physical and cognitive impairments, enabling them to successfully interact with computers and navigate websites.

  • Braille Displays convert screen text into Braille characters, allowing blind users to read the text through touch. Some Braille displays also include routing keys that enable users to interact with on-screen elements.
  • Adaptive Keyboards are designed to assist users with limited mobility or dexterity. They may feature larger keys, alternative layouts, or customizable key functions to accommodate specific needs.
  • Speech Recognition Software allows users to control their computers and dictate text using voice commands. It is particularly useful for individuals who have difficulty using a standard keyboard or mouse. Popular examples include Dragon NaturallySpeaking and the built-in speech recognition features now available in Windows and macOS.
  • Joysticks and Trackballs offer an alternative to the traditional mouse, providing a way to control the cursor with  gross motor movements. They are useful for users with limited fine motor skills and precision movements.
  • Touch Screens are common in mainstream technology. In addition to their global use, touch screens can also be considered alternative input devices for users with certain types of disabilities. They can be easier for some individuals to use than a mouse or keyboard.
  • Head Pointers are designed for individuals who cannot use their hands. It is a comfortable hardware device designed to be worn on the head. It enables users to type and navigate computers using a stick or pointer that is attached to the device.
  • Eye Tracking Devices track the movement of the user's eyes and translate them into cursor movements. Users of these devices are able to navigate and select items on a screen without using their hands. This technology is especially beneficial for individuals with severe physical disabilities that limit mobility of arms and hands.
  • Switch Access can be activated in a variety of ways, such as pressing a button, blowing into a tube, or blinking an eye. These customized switches can be used to control software that translates switch activations into computer commands.
  • Sip-and-Puff Systems are operated by inhaling or exhaling through a straw-like device. The systems translate these actions into commands to control a computer or other devices. They are used by individuals with limited mobility in their limbs.

Each of these alternative input devices is designed to address specific user needs and can significantly enhance the ability of individuals with disabilities to access and interact with digital content.

Web Accessibility Survey, Including Questions Relating to Alternative Input Devices

The accessibility team, consistently active leaders and advocates within disabled communities, recently sponsored a Web Accessibility Survey. The ultimate goal of the survey was to learn more from the people they serve.

Questions relating to the use of alternative input devices were included in the Web Accessibility Survey. There are other insightful survey responses that point to browser preferences, common barriers to accessibility, screen readers used, and much more.

Curious about what was included in the recent Web Accessibility Survey as well as the results? View the Web Accessibility Survey page to learn more!

Does Your Brand Need to Improve Digital Accessibility? is the digital agency, and web accessibility partner, to some of the world’s most recognized brands. We can provide your business the confidence in the accessibility of your digital solutions. Our acclaimed accessibility team leads solutions that align with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and accessibility laws all over the world.

Our accessibility team members include Certified Professionals in Web Accessibility (CPWAs) and Certified Professionals in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACCs).

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About Author

Rex Paisley Blog Author
Rex Paisley is a Senior Marketing Specialist with With contributions consistently centered around website and digital marketing solutions, he is a career creative professional who has authored, designed, and developed marketing assets across a wide range of industries. A competitive spirit, he enjoys unpacking the success factors behind the many business wins with clients of

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