Georgia Tech Research Institute
Accessibility Assistant

Accessibility Assistant


Touchscreen Interfaces: Issue 3 of 3

Issue: A touchscreen placed for use by standing users may be difficult for users in wheelchairs to reach.

A user in a wheelchair, using a side approach to a kiosk, reaches for the touchscreen on the device but is unable to reach it because it is too high and too far away.

Users who are seated in wheelchairs or other personal mobility devices may be unable to reach portions of a touchscreen if it is positioned for use by standing users. This problem may be compounded if access to the machine by wheelchair is impeded by objects around the machine. Some wheelchair users are unable to shift their upper bodies, limiting their access to only controls within arm's length. Thus, it is important that controls be operable from a seated position, without requiring excessive leaning or reaching.

Populations Impacted: Users with lower mobility impairments.

Potential Solutions:
  • Follow the ergonomic standards to determine where to position the touchscreen to ensure easy access by all users.

    • The position of any operable control should be determined with respect to a vertical plane that is 48 inches in length, centered on the operable control, and at the maximum protrusion of the product within the 48 inch length.
    • Where any operable control is 10 inches or less behind the reference plane, the height shall be 54 inches maximum (according to Section 508) or 48 inches maximum (according to ADA-ABA) and 15 inches minimum above the floor. (See note below.)
    • Where any operable control is more than 10 inches and not more than 24 inches behind the reference plane, the height shall be 46 inches maximum and 15 inches minimum above the floor.
    • Operable controls shall not be more than 24 inches behind the reference plane.

    Note that Section 508, which was based on older ADA guidelines, specifies a maximum height of 54 inches. The newest ADA-ABA guidelines specify a maximum height of 48 inches, and a forthcoming update to Section 508 is expected to follow suit.

  • Allow adjustment of the position of the touchscreen. A touchscreen that can be adjusted between two or more discrete positions, or freely within a range of positions, could accommodate the needs of both seated and standing users.

  • Provide an alternate interface that is within reach for seated users. The alternate interface could be a fully redundant interface to the touchscreen, or could consist of hardware controls that provide a method for interacting with the screen without touching it, but still require the user to look at the screen. In the latter case, care must still be taken to ensure that the touchscreen is comfortably visible for seated users using the alternate interface.

  • A user in a wheelchair, using a side approach to a kiosk, uses an alternative control interface on the front edge of the device to interact with the device.  The alternative interface provides up, right,left, and down arrows surrounding an enter key, with a help button in the lower left corner of the interface panel.
Applicable Guidelines:
ADA-ABA - 308.2.1, 308.2.2, 308.3.1, 308.3.2, 707.7.1
Section 508 - 1194.25(j), 1194.31(f)
Section 255 - 1193.41(f)(2)(a), 1193.41(f)(2)(b), 1193.41(f)(2)(c)
ISO/IEC 71 - 8.3.1