Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Published April 23, 2023

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month. Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that causes a variety of disabilities. Globally, about ten million people have the disease.  Many people became aware of the condition when actor Michael J. Fox shared that he quit his job on the television show Spin City after his diagnosis. Fox was young when diagnosed, but most people with Parkinson’s Disease are over 60

This article will discuss symptoms, prognosis, treatment and how to make the world more accessible for people with Parkinson’s Disease. 

Symptoms and progression

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease result from the nervous system’s decreased ability to produce dopamine. Humans need dopamine to communicate messages from the brain to the rest of the body. 

The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve the nervous system’s ability to control movement. It is common for people with Parkinson’s Disease to struggle with balance when standing or walking. It is common for a person to move slowly and shuffle their feet. Occasionally, a person may suddenly feel they cannot move their leg while in the middle of walking.

People may also experience neurological issues unrelated to walking or standing. They may experience tremors in their hands or feet while sitting. Others may need help understanding them. The loss of motor control can make handwriting get smaller. 

The degradation of the nervous system can also affect a person’s cognitive abilities and mental health. Parkinson’s disease can lead to memory problems and dementia. People may also experience mood changes, sleep problems, depression, and anxiety. 

Some non-neurological symptoms are less common. People with Parkinson’s Disease can experience constipation and urinary problems. Some may also lose their sense of smell.

Prognosis and treatment

Parkinson’s Disease is degenerative and will get worse over time. There is no cure, but improvements in treatment over the last few decades mean that people with Parkinson’s disease only have a small decrease in life expectancy. 

The most prescribed treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is a combination of the drugs Levodopa and Carbidopa. Parkinson’s symptoms are caused by dying nerve cells not producing enough dopamine. Levodopa aims to replace that missing dopamine. Doctors usually combine it with Carbidopa, which increases its effectiveness. Levodopa both decreases symptoms and slows the progress of the disease.

Accessibility considerations for people with Parkinson’s Disease

When designing physical spaces, be mindful of how someone with poor balance will navigate the space. This means removing unnecessary obstacles and things someone might trip over. People with Parkinson’s Disease might use a cane or walker to help with balance, so spaces must be large enough to accommodate their use.

At first glance, it might seem like accessibility for Parkinson’s Disease is only about physical spaces. But using digital content requires movement, so you must be mindful of digital accessibility for physical disabilities.  

Because people with Parkinson’s Disease often struggle with motor control, it is important that using your digital content does not rely heavily on dexterity. One key way to do this is to ensure users can access all your content with only a keyboard. This means ensuring users can tab through content and avoid keyboard traps. It also means if your interface uses dragging items with a mouse or touchpad, there must be an alternative method. 

Another important consideration is timed elements. Because a person with Parkinson’s Disease has less control over the movements, completing a task within a set time is more difficult. If there is no reason to require a user to complete a task within a certain time frame, do not force them to do so. If it is important to limit time, for example, for security reasons, ensure users have sufficient warning and can extend the time when needed.

Loss of motor control can make it more likely someone will make errors when operating a computer or mobile device. Build your content to help prevent errors and make them easier to solve. When the user must input information, provide clear labels. Predict common errors, build features that detect them, and offer suggestions for fixing them. 

Because Parkinson’s disease can cause cognitive problems, making your content clear and easy to use is also important. Like most accessibility guidelines, this benefits all users. Always use consistent navigation to help users easily learn how to use your content.  Write in plain language whenever possible. When using jargon, make sure you are defining unusual words and providing the expanded version of acronyms.


Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, the availability of effective treatments has improved the outlook for a person diagnosed with the disease. Accessibility plays a big role in improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s Disease by helping them access the physical and digital world.

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