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Physical Needs

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Computer Input Devices





A computer mouse, has as it's most common standard features: two buttons and a scroll wheel.  However, not everyone can use a 'standard' mouse comfortably. Everyone has their own preference for style and features, and where disability is concerned, i.e. arthtritis, limited hand function, repetitive strain injury etc, there is often no choice other than to find an alternative.  Computer Mice now come in many different shapes and sizes: Roller Ball, Trackball , Optical, Laser, Wireless, Touch Pads, Ergonomic, Joystick, Foot operated etc etc. 


Here's just a small sample: 


Logitech G7

Basic mouse

Scroll Wheel
Scroll Wheel

Whale mouse


Marble mouse

Quill mouse


Kidtrack mouse

Giraffe mouse


More on Mice . . . 





Like the mouse, not everyone can use the 'standard' keyboard.  Difficulties with the hands/arms often force users to look for an alternative.


A small sample of keyboard alternatives:






Big Keys LX








Some disabilities require the keyboard user to fit a frame over the top - called a keyguard.  Essentially what this does, is to enable someone with a tremor or who has difficulty controlling the hands/fingers to press individual keys, without accidentally hitting others. You can buy the keyguard on their own but with so many keyboards on the market it is often difficult to match a keyguard to a particular keyboard.





Keyboard Resources






Eye Tracking


Whilst keyboard and mouse might be considered by many as the standard' method for inputting information to a computer,  not everyone is able to use one, for one reason or another.  For some people, their only means of inputting is either by means of Voice Recognition software, or by means of 'eye tracking'.


What is 'eye tracking' ?.  Essentially, it replaces the mouse on Windows applications. This allows the user to place the mouse cursor on any spot of the screen, by simply looking at that spot. Mouse clicking is achieved by blinking slowly, or by 'dwelling', that is, keeping the cursor on the spot for a fixed time. If this is combined with an on-screen keyboard, the user can communicate by text and/or voice. There are various options to emulate different kinds of mouse clicks, which allow users total contol over Windows. This includes click, double click, right mouse clicking, drag and drop etc. (Read more about this technology at: Wikipedia/Eye Tracking)  


Examples of eye tracking systems


  • Eye Gaze. A communication and control system for people with complex physical disabilities. The system is operated entirely with the eyes. By looking at control keys displayed on a screen, a person can synthesize speech, control his environment (lights, call bells, etc.), type, run computer software, operate a computer mouse, and access the Internet and e-mail.


  • Quick Glance. An eye tracking system that is operated entirely with the eyes. The software is designed to run in the background while the user is working with standard Windows applications. It allows the user to place the mouse pointer anywhere on the screen simply by looking at the desired location. "Clicking" can be done with an eye blink, a hardware switch, or by staring (dwell). Quick Glance can be used for writing, surfing the Web, computer-aided design, games etc.


  • MyTobii. A portable eye-controlled communication device. Everything, including the monitor screen, eye control device and computer, is integrated into one unit. It just needs connecting to a power source, such as a wall socket, power wheelchair or separate battery. The device can be mounted for use at a desk, wheelchair, bed or anywhere suitable for the user.  

    What they say about the MyTobii.


 Video Demonstrations of Eyepointing


One particular eye tracking system takes things a step further.  Called Dasher, it is an eye tracking system for text recognition and speech output.  It is a complex program - a zooming interface.  You point where you want to go and the display zooms in wherever you point. Where you are pointing is painted with letters, so that any point you zoom in on corresponds to a pice of text. The more you zoom in, the longer the piece of text you have written. You choose what you write by choosing where to zoom.  You can read more about this clever software at: News BBC / Dasher 


Dasher can also be used without an eye tracking system - it can be used with just a mouse or on a keyboard single handed.


Video Demonstration Of Dasher


Head Tracking


A wireless optical sensor which tracks a tiny and disposable target, is placed on the user’s forehead, cap or glasses. The user moves their head and controls the movement of the mouse cursor.  When this capability is combined with on-screen keyboard software, the HeadMouse can completely replace the functions of a conventional keyboard.


Examples of head tracking systems


  • Tracker Pro tracks the movement of a user’s head, and converts it to mouse signals. The user wears a small reflective sticker on the forehead or glasses frame (or hat or baseball cap!). It is positioned on top the computer screen or AAC device and emits infrared signals to the reflective dot that in turn reflect the signals back to. The user’s head movement is measured and converted to mouse movement. 


  • Smart Nav is similar to Tracker Pro. A wireless optical sensor tracks a tiny and disposable target that is placed on the user’s forehead or glasses. The user simply moves their head to position the cursor. When this is combined with on-screen keyboard software, the functions of a conventional keyboard can be replaced. It enables hands free control of a computer. 


Head Pointers


Photo of head pointerHead Pointers now come in quite a variety of designs.  Unlike forehead protrusion pointers, an 'out from the chin' device allows closer proximity to the item being accessed and reduces the head movement needed to activate such a device. It eliminates the barrier imposed by the forehead pointers because it doesn't interrupt either the wearer's field of vision or the full view of the wearer's face.


The Ace-Centre have started to put together a list of currently known head pointer designs, in an attempt to inform the buyer of the capabilities and pitfalls of each particular product. More information . . . 

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