People with significant physical disabilities often experience difficulty operating their computer using a standard mouse and keyboard. They also may have difficulty operating electronic appliances in their home. There are many technologies available to assist. Which is the best? This depends on the specific needs of each individual, and the tasks they wish to be able to perform independently.
What types of technologies can be useful for people with physical disabilities? There are a range of hardware and software options – which can be used alone or in combination with each other.
Some hardware options include:
- Alternatives to the standard mouse
- Mouse control using a switch and any reliable body part movement
- Mouse control via head movement only
- Mouse control via eye movement only
- Mouse control via sip/puff mouth actions
- Alternative keyboards – able to be programmed, operated with one hand, or simply offering larger keys which are easier to select
- Keyguards to sit on top of keyboards making it easier to select the intended key without activating others
- Automatic Page Turners for help with reading physical copies of books or magazines
- Additional technologies, such as speech generating devices, are available to support independent communication for people with physical disabilities who also experience difficulties with speech
- Integrated Powered Mobility Controls – allowing power wheelchair controls to be used for controlling not just the wheelchair itself, but also for operating a computer and/or a speech generating device
Some software options include:
- Voice recognition software turns speech into text without needing to use a keyboard or mouse
- Word prediction software which dramatically reduces the number of keystrokes required to type text
- Computer access software allowing users with significant disabilities to operate any computer program with a switch or multiple switches
- Switch training programs for younger students to assist them to become proficient in switch use
- One-handed typing tutor
- Screen enlargement software if the user also has visual impairments
- Software for converting print documents to electronic versions, avoiding the need to be able to turn pages or move papers
These technologies can be found in the following sections of our catalogue:
We also have a section listing Powered Mobility Controls, but these are no longer available from Spectronics. This section is provided for your information only, as we prefer that you deal directly with Unique Perspectives, the manufacturer of these clever specialty controls. Contact details for the manufacturer are provided in this section.
In future, we will be building a feature which will allow you to search just for items on our website of relevance to people with physical disabilities. This will include results not just for technologies, but for relevant articles, help sheets and activity exchange entries as well. We are working on it for you!