Assistive Technology for Computer Access

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

Regardless of an individual's disability or challenges, full computer access is available to nearly anyone through assistive technology. By reading on, you will become familiar with the various forms of assistive technology for computer access.

Why Assistive Technology for Computer Access?

There are very few aspects of our modern lives that are not in some way affected by computers. Most daily activities are made easier and less expensive through Internet access including shopping, communicating with others, paying bills, looking up information from recipes to driving directions to thesis reports, and so on. Educational, vocational, and recreational pursuits are all enhanced and, in some cases, dependent on computer use.

For individuals with disabilities, being able to fully access computers opens a world of possibilities that they might otherwise not have. Earning an income is possible through telecommuting, freelance work, writing, and entrepreneurial pursuits. Pursuing education can be achieved through online courses. Individuals can communicate through social media and other platforms with others around the globe. All of these things and more increase a person's independence and quality of life.

With advances in technology, virtually any person with any disability can have full access to computers. To determine the most appropriate assistive technology for an individual, it's best to conduct a professional assessment of the individual's goals and needs to avoid unnecessary purchases and to find the devices that provide the right level of technology. Here are examples of some of the assistive technology available for computer access:

Mouse Alternatives

More so than a keyboard, being able to control the functions of a mouse is necessary for computer use. This is because keyboards can be accessed onscreen with mouse clicks. Mouse alternatives used to control the cursor on the screen include:

  • Keyboard shortcuts: commands to the mouse in Windows and Mac through the keyboard, including mouse keys using a numeric keyboard
  • Left-handed and ergonomic mice: many variations to suit individual needs
  • Touchpad and trackpad: sliding and tapping fingers for limited range of motion or strength
  • Joysticks: controlled by hands, feet, chin, head, or other means
  • Trackballs: movable balls on top of a base when gripping is difficult
  • Touch Screens: touch screen directly, foregoing mouse or keyboard; either built into or added to computer monitor
  • Mouse emulator software: allows head and body movements to simulate movement and clicking of mouse; controlled by ultrasound, infrared, eye movement, nerve signals, or brain waves

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