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More than One Way to Use A Computer!
What do we do when we're toddlers? We point to something we want, like a toy or cookie. Using a mouse is the same action, though some of us point and click with differently-shaped activators. That's why mouse movement is so easy to emulate. A person without total hand-function or limited range of movement may still be able to get onto the Internet, play games, send and receive email, or perform jobs, depending on skills and preferences. All that is required is the appropriate alternative mouse to get going!
Alternative mice come in the form of switches, large buttons, joysticks, track-balls, infrared remote systems, head-pointers, tongue-clickers, sip ‘n puff devices, eye-gazing devices, voice activation, and alternative keyboards. Each are activated with a single movement, such as the twitch of an eyebrow, lip, head, arm, leg or foot movement. An occupational therapist or rehabilitation engineer can work with almost anyone (child or adult) to determine what works best.
Sometimes it's necessary to modify or even specially design a device. Tailor-made equipment is not uncommon, and occupational therapy is usually covered by Medicare or insurance. Mounting systems also facilitate computer access from a wheelchair or bed. (A rehabilitation engineer can set up the system.)
Following is a description of just a few alternative mice. (Note: devices may fit into more than one category. Please also see disclaimer at the end of this section.
Switches only require a single movement performed by any means to a user through muscle movement.
Switches are the currency of computer access for special needs users because they only require a single muscle movement. Switch applications then require a switch-interface component to connect to a computer.
Trackballs and Joysticks
A trackball functions as an effective pointing device, translating motion into mouse clicks. A trackball is used by rolling a ball with the palm or fingers to point to a word or link.
A joystick also functions as an effective pointer, but requires the user to grasp and move toward a targeted word or link.
Touch-screen or on-screen keyboards
With a touch-sensitive screen, users can perform the same input functions as a mouse, using a finger or a stylus. Tapping the screen twice performs a double-click, and dragging the finger or stylus across the touch-screen performs a drag-and-drop. Touch screens usually emulate left mouse-clicks, but various software drivers (built-in or added on) also emulate right mouse-clicks.
Software drivers facilitate touch-screen commands to perform anything from navigating a learning program, to using an augmentative alternative speech device. Touch screens are also seen in games or conveniences in the mainstream. For instance, we use touch-screens at ATM machines, parking lots, snack machines, and personal digital systems, like the Palm Pilot™ or Blackberry™.
Liquid crystal diode (LCD) technology used in clocks and watches,gave us touch-screens. And that's what gave us the flat-screen computer and TV! Onscreen keyboards use this same technology, which is easier for some users than operating an actual, hard keyboard.
Speech Recognition Software
Speech recognition software requires sufficient breath control and clarity of voice. Initial training acquaints a user with a speech software program and its functions, while the device learns to recognize the user's voice. After the training period, he or she can activate a computer or environmental controls.
Note: Infinitec does not endorse or recommend the above-mentioned products and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec has received no consideration of any type for featuring this product on this Web site. The information offered herein is a summary; it is not comprehensive and should be carefully evaluated by consumers with the assistance of qualified professionals. The intention of Infinitec is to offer consumers a brief overview of various assistive technology devices and their applications.