Georgia Tech Research Institute
Accessibility Assistant

Accessibility Assistant


Control Panel Buttons (5 of 11)

Issue: Buttons that are all shaped the same or that do not have shapes corresponding to their functions are more difficult for the blind to memorize and for the cognitively impaired to understand.

A numeric keypad and other control panel buttons are shown.  The buttons are all the same shape and size, making them difficult to distinguish by touch.

Button shapes should correspond to their functionality. Commonly used or important controls should be more prominent. Control panel buttons that are logically grouped together, such as on a numeric keypad, should all have the same shape and distinguishing features. Users who are blind rely on memorization to learn where specific keys are located on a device. If all buttons are shaped exactly the same, memorizing the location of the various buttons becomes a difficult task. For users with limited cognitive abilities, it may be difficult to understand the difference between buttons that look exactly the same.

Populations Impacted: Users who are blind; users with cognitive impairments.

Potential Solution:
  • Design buttons with distinguishing features, including differences in shape. Ensure that buttons with different functions are distinguished from one another in some way. For example, on many kiosks, the "Enter" button on the control panel is larger than all the other buttons because of its relative importance. It is also a good idea to associate buttons that have related functions by making them all the same shape. In addition to shape and size coding, color coding and grouping can be used as distinguishing features for controls.

  • A numeric keypad and other control panel buttons are shown.  The buttons are distinguished by shape (the number keys are square, the enter key is rectangular, the help key is round, the back key is an arrow, and the cancel key is a hexagon), size (the enter key is larger than the other keys), and color (the number keys are blue, the enter and help keys are green, the back key is yellow, and the cancel key is red).
Applicable Guidelines:
ADA-ABA - 707.3, 707.6.1
Section 508 - 1194.23(k)(1), 1194.25(c), 1194.31(a)
Section 255 - 1193.41(a)(3)(b)
HFDS -,,,,