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
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. There are many types to choose from:
- A huge variety of switches,
along with environmental controls, are found at TASH: (http://www.tashinc.com/catalog/index.html).
- CrossScanner by RJ Cooper
allows the user to direct a cursor on a computer screen.
- Don Johnston Company offers the USB
Switch Interface Pro: (http://www.donjohnston.com/catalog/switchpro.htm).
- Incorporating most types of input-technology,
as well as output, the ADA Workstation
by Synapse is incredibly versatile. The ADA Workstation is custom
configured, quoted, and integrated to meet the precise adaptive
technology requirements and budget of virtually any individual
or organization. Features can include speech recognition,
print and screen to speech, screen and print
magnification, word prediction, L/D compensation, alternative
pointing, and Braille output: (http://www.synapse-ada.com/)
- IntelliSwitch by Madenta is
a flexible switch interface. Install the driver software, plug
a switch into one of IntelliSwitch’s five switch ports,
and plug the receiver into the computer’s USB port. Users
can then access switch software with one or more switches: (http://www.madentec.com/)
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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.
- The Roller II and Joystick
come with sturdy, three-button switch adaptable pointing devices,
available in either a large 2.5 inch trackball,
or a 3-inch joystick. Separate buttons indicate
left-click, right-click, and drag-lock, with color-corresponding
switch ports on the back of each unit. Flashing
lights indicate when the drag button is activated. (Roller
II products include key guards to help users isolate buttons.)
- T-Bar and Soft Sponge Ball,
produced by Infogrip, offers yet more alternatives for special
input needs. The company produces a complete line of pointing
- Sam Joystick, switches, buttons, and
speech software connects everyone via alternative mouse:
SAM-Cordless Switch Interface is particularly
versatile. See how one Infinitec visitor uses just his eyebrow
and Sam Joystick to operate a computer: http://www.infinitec.org/learn/mystory/waynewilleby.htm
Producer of Sam Joystick, RJ Cooper specializes in augmentative
speech and computer access devices—See R. J. Cooper’s
extensive line of software and hardware products. http://rjcooper.com/index.html.
- Turbo Mouse
users move a trackball manually to emulate mouse functions. Four
click buttons are provided so left- and right-handed
users may best use the product. Turbo Mouse requires
less hand movement than a traditional mouse,
and the track ball requires minimal finger movement:
- Mayer-Johnson also offers
a number of assistive devices that function as alternatives to
a traditional mouse: http://www.mayer-johnson.com/SearchResults.aspx?CatID=5413&Page=2&Q=Spe
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- HeadMaster Plus, by
Prentke Romich Co., is a head-pointing system that takes
the place of a mouse. Head movements make a cursor move
on-screen; puffing a tube attachment makes selections. (Also
see Sip ‘n Puff devices.) An infrared receiver
connects to computer and/or printer, providing wireless
access. The switch output (for up to 5 switches)
enables users to operate switches for computer devices and
environmental controls. See: http://store.prentrom.com/cgi-
bin/store/search.html?id=RFbae6jE (Also see Sip
'n Puff devices)
- Tracker 2000 sits on
top of a computer and tracks a tiny reflective dot
worn on the forehead or a pair of glasses.
Tracker 2000 converts head movements into computer mouse
movements. Prentke Romich offers many types of pointers:
- Eye-gaze systems are
also available, though they are more costly. Madentec offers
Tracker, a camera mounted to a computer that shines an infrared
beam for cursor movement, in conjunction with a reflective
dot worn by the user. With minimal movement, users control
the cursor and computer.
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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.
- CubeWriter is an onscreen
keyboard, speech recognition and writing program, and teaching
tool that can be customized to meet individual needs. CubeWriter
offers several input options including a mouse, touch screen,
switch/scanning, and alternative or regular keyboards. Other options
include four word list levels, two keyboard layouts, choice of
word document programs, three modes, to name a few: http://www.cubewriter.com/
- WIVIK 3, by Freedom of Speech,
Inc. is an on-screen keyboard that provides access to all recent
applications of Windows operating systems. The WIVIK 3 package
provides access using point and click, dwell selection, or switch-based
scanning, as well as word prediction, abbreviation expansion and
speech output. See: http://www.freedomofspeech.com/wivik.html
- Screen Doors 2000, by-Madentec
Limited, empowers users with full keyboard emulation, plus foreign
languages, word-prediction, and other features. See: http://www.madentec.com/
- IntelliKeys is a programmable
alternative keyboard for students or adults who have difficulty
using a standard keyboard. It plugs into a computer’s USB
port, providing computer access to individuals with physical,
visual, or cognitive disabilities. Read more here: http://www.intellitools.com/
- Abrakadabra by Inclusive
TLC, is suitable for children PK-12 for language development.
It has a fun cause-and-effect program, using graphics and sound.
Abrakadabra has three levels of difficulty, each with 10 different
scenes to build animated visual and auditory rewards. http://www.inclusivetlc.com/
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Speech-activated 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.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking
8, by Nuance, is considered more forgiving and easier
to use than earlier versions. The software learns to recognize
user’s voice and convert speech to text. Many more
helpful features enhance the use of this product. Read about it
- Talking Desktop, by
Abasoft Corporation, talking and listening software for hands-free
computer control, speech recognition for dictation, voice e-mail,
voice browser, mouse control and natural text-to-speech. Read
and listen here: http://www.talkingdesktop.com/
- Speaking Dynamically Pro,
by Mayer-Johnson, is a tool for creating talking, interactive
activities and customized communication boards. It is for users
of all ages, any access method, and all ability levels. It reinforces
curriculum concepts, creates interactive books, writing activities,
social stories, schedules, theme-based units, and more: http://
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Sip ‘n puff systems are typically prescribed for individuals
with high-level spinal cord injuries or advanced chronic illnesses,
such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy, muscular
dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. These systems are generally mounted
to a wheelchair or bed. Users need lateral head movement, and minimal
breath control volume. Sip ‘n puff capability allows users
to control a wheelchair, environmental elements, a computer, or
synthetic speech device. Sip ‘n puff systems also require
mounting gear, protective sheathes for electronics, and operating
- Adaptive Switch Labs,
This system consists of an ASL 109 Head Array with mounting hardware,
an ASL 154IVC sip n puff interface, and an ASL 202 fiber optic
sensor for reset/mode changes.
The ASL 109 is designed for individuals having only minimal breath
volume and may not be able to achieve both hard and soft sip and
puff indications. With this driver-control device, a puff equals
forward and a sip equals reverse. Right and left turns are controlled
by sensors located in the wings of the headrest. Users can steer
or veer by rotating the head toward one of the headrest wings,
while going forward in latched mode.
- Sip ‘n Puff
Switch, by Origin, is a head-mounted accessory used to
actuate a two position switch by a simple sip or puff. It consists
of a head frame with attached mouth-tube and a switch box connected
to the head-frame by a second plastic tube. Sips and puffs are
converted to switch closures inside the Switch Box. These switch
events are made available on two connectors labeled "Sip"
and "Puff." http://www.orin.com/access/sip_puff/index.htm
- Sip n’ Puff Switches,
by Technical Solutions, by activate a toy or device by sipping
and/or puffing (depending on the model) through an air tube. Switches
can be tailored to needs: http://www.tecsol.com.au/SwitchSuckBlow.htm
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New technologies develop so quickly, we thought we’d show
you something really cutting-edge: Technology that can translate
action thoughts into computer commands! Think-A-Move™
is not on the market yet, but the company has developed three products
that use thought patterns to control electronic devices. In other
words, when a person has an action-related thought, such as swinging
a golf club, the muscles in the body involuntarily contract, in
preparation for the impending physical action. When these muscles
begin to contract, air pressure changes take place in the ear-canal.
The muscular movements and resulting air pressure changes are unique
to a particular action-thought and are repeatable. Learn more here:
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Infinitec Inc. does not endorse or recommend the above-mentioned
products and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec
Inc. 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 Inc. is to offer consumers a brief overview of various
assistive technology devices and their applications.