Adaptive technology can allow a person with a mobility impairment to use all of the capabilities of a computer. While it is helpful to recognize the specific limitations of an individual, it is more important to focus on the task to be completed and how his abilities, perhaps assisted with technology, can be used to accomplish the goal or task. Work closely with the person with a mobility impairment to first determine what he needs or desires to accomplish by using a computer.
When a person's mobility impairment prevents the use of a standard keyboard or mouse, using a switch may be a possibility. Switches come in a nearly limitless array and can be controlled with nearly any body part. Switches can be activated with a kick, a swipe of the hand, sip and puff by mouth, head movement, an eyeblink, or touch. Even physical closeness can activate a proximity switch. These switches work in concert with a box or an emulator that sends commands for the keyboard and/or mouse to the computer.
With the advent of graphically oriented operating systems, it is vital to have access to a mouse or an alternative pointing device. For those who lack the coordination to use a standard mouse, there are many alternatives to consider. Trackballs are a good first choice; the control surface can be easier to manipulate, and the buttons can be activated without affecting the pointer position. Some trackballs offer additional buttons that add functionality, such as double clicking, click and hold, and other commands and can be programmed to a person's specific needs.
The keyboard can be the biggest obstacle to computing for a person with a mobility impairment. Fortunately, those who lack the dexterity or range of motion necessary to operate a standard keyboard have a wide range of options from which to choose. Pointers can be held in the mouth or mounted to a hat or headgear and used to press keys on a standard keyboard. Repositioning the keyboard to the floor can allow someone to use his feet instead of his hands for typing.
An elevator or ramp provides access to spaces when a staircase is insurmountable for someone who uses a wheelchair. Similarly, specialized hardware and software, called assistive or adaptive technology, allows people with mobility impairments to use computers. These tools allow a person with limited, uncontrollable, or no hand or arm movement to successfully perform in educational and job settings. Adaptive technology can allow a person with a mobility impairment to use all of the capabilities of a computer.
Yes, and there are several options you can choose from.
A virtual keyboard is software that is used to emulate a standard keyboard. A picture of a keyboard is displayed on a computer screen and the user points and clicks on the pictures of keys to enter text. Switches activated in a wide variety of ways make use of the most appropriate muscles for the individual user. Virtual keyboards allow computer use by people with significant mobility impairments.