Module 3: Accommodations for Motor Impairments
Using a Computer
Many educators use computers to generate handouts, prepare lectures, and write reports. In addition, as discussed elsewhere, computer technology can assist with other tasks (e.g., electronic texts for reading). Using a computer involves being able to type or otherwise enter text, use a mouse or similar device, and read information from a computer screen.
For a person with a lower extremity impairment, the only issue is getting up to the work area. Many more computer access challenges may be faced by a person with an upper extremity impairment. Both typing and using a mouse may be difficult.
Accommodation options may include:
- Provide a workstation with sufficient clearance to get up close.
People who work from a wheelchair will require knee space beneath the work surface and may need a higher work surface if their chair seat is higher than a regular classroom chair (frequently the case with power wheelchairs).
Risers may be placed under desk legs to increase the height. Height-adjustable work surfaces could be considered if multiple users will be using the same workspace.
assistivetech.net entries for furniture risers.
assistivetech.net entries for height adjustable workstations.
- Use wireless devices to operate a computer from a distance.
Wireless keyboards and mice allow a teacher to use a computer without getting as close to the workstation.
- Use an alternative keyboard.
Keyboards with letters that are closer together (due to keyboard size, shape or letter arrangement) can compensate for reduced range of motion or one-handed use. Keyboards with larger or more widely-spaced keys can compensate for spasticity or if gross motor movements are preferred. Touch-sensitive membrane keyboards may be preferable for individuals who need a keyboard with less activation force.
- Use a keyguard.
Keyguards are templates that fit over keys and provide a small barrier between each key. They can help guide fingers to the desired key.
assistivetech.net entries for keyguards.
- Use an onscreen keyboard.
Use the cursor to select letters or words from a virtual keyboard displayed on the monitor. When used with a mouse alternative that is hands-free (below), this software can provide a hands-free means to enter text.
atwiki article on onscreen keyboards.
assistivetech.net entries for onscreen keyboards.
- Reduce the number of keystrokes needed to type.
Macros can be programmed to perform common operations with a single keystroke. Word prediction programs suggest words or phrases based on the first few letters of a word and its context. The correct option can be selected from a list, for a savings in keystrokes.
atwiki article on abbreviation expansion and macros.
atwiki article on word prediction.
assistivetech.net entries for word prediction.
- Use a mouse alternative that requires less range of motion and hand grasp.
Trackballs, trackpads and joysticks all remain stationary on a surface and require less hand movement. In the case of trackballs, instead of requiring grasp, the ball may be nudged with a hand, single finger, foot, or mouthstick.
atwiki article on mouse alternatives.
assistivetech.net entries for trackballs.
assistivetech.net entries for computer joysticks.
- Use the number pad to move the cursor.
The MouseKeys feature, part of the Windows and Macintosh operating systems, uses the number pad keys for mouse directions and button clicks. This is a good option when fine precision of movement is needed, but it may otherwise be slower than other methods. In pre-Vista Windows, MouseKeys can be activated in the Accessibility Features under the Control Panel.
- Use a mouse alternative that is hands-free.
Head-controlled mice and eye-tracking are other options for people who have more difficulty using their arms and hands.
assistivetech.net entries for hands-free computer control.
- Use button lock features and dwell software to reduce the need to push mouse buttons.
Some mouse alternatives offer a drag button which substitutes for having to press and hold down a button while dragging -- the button is just hit to start and stop the drag. For less button pushing, dwell software will execute a "click" when the cursor is moved to a position and then held there.
- Use voice input software.
It is possible to enter text, activate menu commands, and make mouse movements through speech. Users can achieve typing speeds of over 40 wpm, however these systems require train both to learn to use and for the system to learn user-specific voice patterns. Misrecognized words must be diligently corrected to maintain high recognition accuracy.
atwiki article on voice input systems.
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